Poor Recognition of Encephalitis in EMS Settings: Ava Easton, PhD


The chief executive at Encephalitis International talked about results from a recent survey conducted on the misconceptions of encephalitis recognition among emergency medical professionals. [WATCH TIME: 5 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 5 minutes

“Recognition of [encephalitis], especially diagnosis and treatment, is important for the patients impacted by this condition, which has a high mortality rate in comparison with many other neurological conditions depending on the cause. Patients affected and who survived the condition are often left with life-changing disabilities [because of] brain injury. Some will make a good recovery, but many don't, and we felt that this was an important area to explore.”

Encephalitis can lead patients to have permanent brain injuries which can impact their memory and other cognitive skills, cause changes in personality, emotional and behavioral difficulties, epilepsy, fatigue and physical problems.1 Signs of autoimmune encephalitis can include memory problems, psychiatric symptoms, decreased or altered level of consciousness and personality change. These symptoms of encephalitis are often at times mistaken for psychiatric disorders, which can lead to misdiagnosis and delays in treatment for patients with the condition.

In a new worldwide survey of 614 ER medical professionals, responses showed that more than half of ER clinicians and nurses did not consider encephalitis for a diagnosis when presented with a list of accepted symptoms, suggesting that further education is needed to help ER medical professional recognize encephalitis.1 Conducted by Encephalitis International, findings showed that 62% of US-based, ER doctors and nurses did not consider infectious encephalitis as a diagnosis, and more than 81% did not consider autoimmune encephalitis as a diagnosis when presented with a list of accepted symptoms for each disease. Notably, 85% of participants agreed in the survey that they would benefit from additional training about encephalitis.

Ava Easton, PhD, the chief executive at Encephalitis International, recently sat down with NeurologyLive® in an interview to discuss the key findings of the survey regarding encephalitis recognition among emergency medical professionals. She talked about how the lack of training and awareness impacts the diagnosis and treatment of encephalitis, particularly in low to middle-income countries. Additionally, Easton spoke about the initiatives Encephalitis International is undertaking to address the training gaps and improve awareness of encephalitis among medical professionals globally.

1. Encephalitis International global survey finds urgent need for further education to help ER doctors and nurses recognize symptoms of encephalitis, a life-threatening brain condition. News Release. Encephalitis International. Published February 22, 2024. Accessed March 18, 2024.
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