Neurological complications of chickenpox

Girija, A. S.; Rafeeque, M.; Abdurehman, K. P.
December 2007
Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology;Dec2007, Vol. 10 Issue 4, p240
Academic Journal
Aim: To assess the neurological complications of chickenpox with prognosis. Background: The neurological complications occur in 0.03% of persons who get chickenpox. There is no universal vaccination against chicken pox in India. Most patients prefer alternate modalities of treatment. Hence these complications of chickenpox are likely to continue to occur. Study Design: A prospective study was conducted for 2 years (from March 2002) on the admitted cases with neurological complications after chickenpox (with rash or scar). Patients were investigated with CT/MRI, CSF study, EEG and nerve conduction studies and hematological workup. They were followed-up for 1 year and outcome assessed using modified Rankin scale. Results: The latency for the neurological complications was 4-32 days (mean: 16.32 days). There were 18 cases: 10 adults (64%) and 8 children (36%). Cerebellar ataxia (normal CT/MRI) was observed in 7 cases (32%) (mean age: 6.85 years). One patient (6 years) had acute right hemiparesis in the fifth week due to left capsular infarct. All these cases spontaneously recovered by 4 weeks. The age range of the adult patients was 13-47 years (mean: 27 years). The manifestations included cerebellar and pyramidal signs (n-4) with features of demyelination in MRI who recovered spontaneously or with methylprednisolone by 8 weeks. Patient with encephalitis recovered in 2 weeks with acyclovir. Guillain Barre syndrome of the demyelinating type (n-2) was treated with Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) and they had a slow recovery by a modified Rankin scale (mRs) score of 3 and 2 at 6 months and 1 year, respectively. One case died after hemorrhage into the occipital infarct. There were two cases of asymmetrical neuropathy, one each of the seventh cranial and brachial neuritis. Conclusion: Spontaneous recovery occurs in post-chickenpox cerebellar ataxia. Rarely, serious complications can occur in adults. The demyelinating disorders, either of the central or peripheral nervous system, can be effectively managed using methylprednisolone or I/V IG.


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