About Paraneoplastic Neurological Disorders (PND) > Central Nervous System (Brain and Spinal Cord) > Paraneoplastic Brainstem Encephalitis

Paraneoplastic Brainstem Encephalitis

Paraneoplastic brainstem encephalitis affects the brainstem, which is located in the base of the brain. The brain stem connects the brain with the spinal cord and cerebellum. The brainstem is involved in critical neurological functions such as:

  • control of eye movements,
  • swallowing,
  • breathing,
  • heart rate,
  • equilibrium and
  • level of consciousness.

Usually, the encephalitis or inflammation of the brainstem occurs along with involvement of other areas of the brain or cerebellum.

Patients with brainstem encephalitis may develop:

  • double vision,
  • blurry vision,
  • changes in the quality of the voice (slurred speech),
  • vertigo,
  • dizziness,
  • difficulty swallowing fluids or solids,
  • problems in the control of breathing,
  • changes in the rhythm of the heart (dysrhythmias),
  • tremor and slow movements (that may resemble Parkinson’s disease),
  • progressive decrease of consciousness,
  • and coma.

Because brainstem encephalitis is usually part of a more extensive encephalitis involving areas of the brain and spinal cord (called encephalomyelitis), the paraneoplastic antibodies involved are usually the same as those associated with paraneoplastic encephalomyelitis. link to section discussing para neoplastic encephalomyelitis

The response to treatment of the tumor and immunotherapy is usually poor, but symptoms can stabilize if the disorder is treated promptly.

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