Immunoadsorption Therapy in Managing NMDAR Antibodies Encephalitis

  • End date
    Jun 2, 2025
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    Assistance Publique - Hôpitaux de Paris
Updated on 2 December 2021


The purpose of the study is to assess the efficacy of immunoadsorption therapy (IA) on improving the neurological status of severe pediatric anti-NMDAR encephalitis patients.


Anti-NMDA-Receptor (NMDAR) encephalitis, the most frequent autoimmune encephalitis after Acute Demyelinating encephalomyelitis (ADEM), affects children with predominant movement disorders, decline of consciousness, psychiatric symptoms, language dysfunction, seizures, dysautonomic symptoms. The cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is most often abnormal with lymphocytic pleocytosis, CSF-specific oligoclonal bands with intrathecal synthesis of anti-NMDAR antibodies. Antibody titres in CSF and serum seem correlated with clinical outcome. Early start of immunotherapy has been reported to improve clinical outcome and associated with less relapses. In a recent large series (211 children/577), 77% of the patients were admitted to Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the beginning. Within the group of children, first-line immunotherapy (95%) consisted of corticosteroids (89%), and/or intravenous immunoglobulins (IgIV) (83%), and/or plasma exchange (28%) with failure in 46%. The second-line immunotherapy consisting in rituximab (24%) and/or cyclophosphamide (16%) was proposed in 32%, and tended to be associated with good outcome (OR=3.35, CI: 0.86-12.98, p=0.081 for 53 children; statistical significance was achieved for the entire population including adults (OR: 2.69, CI: 1.24-5.80, p = 0.012) and less relapses.

In investigators' experience, the clinical benefit of rituximab is delayed over one month, while children go on worsening (50% admitted in ICU) thus claiming for faster removal of the antibodies. Plasma exchange is proposed in most of the series as alternative or combined treatment in the acute stage (first-line immunotherapy); recently, another plasmatherapy, immunoadsorption therapy (IA), has been reported as an efficient therapeutic approach in 11/13 patients. In this retrospective study, patients received a median of 6 IA sessions within a median period of 8 days with relevant clinical improvement. However these encouraging results and investigators' experience in few children need further prospective and standardized evaluation.

In IANMDAR study, each patient will receive 10 IA sessions during 28 days maximum. Rituximab will be given each week for 4 weeks (one injection by week +/- 3 days):

  • at least 1 day before each IA session
  • the last injection will occur after the last session IA (minimum one day after) To assess the efficacy of IA-therapy at short term, the neurological status of patients will be evaluated before and after the 10 IA sessions using the Pediatric Cerebral Performance Category Scale (PCPCS) and the modified Rankin Scale (mRS).

To assess the efficacy of IA-therapy at long term, patients will have a standardized follow-up during two years including neuropsychological evaluation at 1 year and at 2 years (see below for further details).

Condition Anti-NMDAR Encephalitis
Treatment Rituximab, IA session
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT03274375
SponsorAssistance Publique - Hôpitaux de Paris
Last Modified on2 December 2021


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Age: 0-16 years inclusive
Autoimmune encephalitis with positive anti-NMDAR antibodies in CSF (definite anti-NMDAR encephalitis according to Graus's criteria (Graus et al., 2016)
PCPCS and mRS at 4 or over at the inclusion after first line therapy (steroids and/or IgIV) when Rituximab therapy is warranted
Parents or legal guardians signed the Informed consent form
Social insurance affiliation

Exclusion Criteria

Autoimmune encephalitis without NMDAR antibodies
PCPCS and mRS scores under 4 after first-line therapy
Contraindication to perform central vascular access
Pregnancy, breastfeeding or absence of effective contraception (including abstinence) in a pubertal patient
Contraindication to perform IA therapy
Clinical conditions that prohibit transitory volume changes
Indications that prohibit anticoagulation using Heparin and/or ACD-A solutions
History of hypercoagulability
Generalized viral, bacterial and/or mycotic infections
Severe immune deficiencies (e.g. AIDS)
Suspected allergies against sheep antibodies or agarose
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