|The treatment of encephalitis usually begins when evidence of inflammation is found. The encephalitis
is usually caused by a viral infection. In many of the cases of viral encephalitis the identity of the infecting virus is not conclusively
- Acyclovir is an anti-viral agent effective against encephalitis viruses. Although not always identified, herpes simplex (the cold sore virus) is the commonest found cause of encephalitis in this country. There is no specific treatment, at present, for the majority of other virus infecting the brain. Prompt treatment with Acyclovir is important.
- Anti-convulsants Other treatments may include an anticonvulsant to control seizures and sedatives to reduce agitation. Intensive care with ventilation may also be necessary in severe cases to reduce brain swelling. Antibiotics may be given to treat
secondary bacterial infections resulting from being seriously ill.
- Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis ADEM is treated with steroids.
- Brain Scans During the acute phase of an encephalitic illness, a scan may be taken to assess the extent of the
inflammation. The most common type of scan is CT (computerized tomography). The patient lies on a mobile table which slides them into
the scanner. Pictures are taken of the brain and analyzed by a computer, to produce a picture of “slices” of the brain. Scans will
show only gross structural damage. Sometimes encephalitis results in microscopic damage which is too small to be seen on today’s scans.
- Electroencephalogram EEG - a test to record the electrical activities of the brain.
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) This provides a high-quality image of the brain - without using x-rays. The scanner
contains a powerful magnet which stimulates molecules of the brain to emit unique signals. The signals are fed into a computer - which
creates a 3-D image of the area being scanned. The MRI is loud and for the best pictures the patient has to remain very still.
- Lumbar Puncture A hollow needle is inserted between two of the lumbar vertebrae into the space surrounding the
end of the spinal cord. A specimen of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the fluid which supports and nourishes the brain, is taken to investigate
the presence of bacteria, virus or inflammation. This test does not always show evidence of encephalitis although it may be present.