What is ADEM?

Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM) is a rare neurological condition which sometimes comes as a result of immunization. It can be a response to a viral infection caused by that immunization. ADEM occurs as an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks itself and affects the brain and the spine. Specifically, it is an inflammation of the brain or spine that damages the myelin (white nerve coating) thereof. ADEM affects more children than it does adults and slightly more men than women.

What are the Symptoms of ADEM?

Widman Law Firm's Dr. Ken Del Vecchio (MD, JD) describes possible symptoms of ADEM: "There are various neurological symptoms and signs that include headache and fever and altered mental status. A respiratory illness or a gastrointestinal disease may precede these various neurologic symptoms and signs. The level of consciousness may be impaired and the patient may be confused and even become comatose. Seizures sometimes occur. Also, there may be meningeal irritation and weakness including of the extremities. Also, there may be loss of sensation. Ataxia with unsteadiness also occurs. The optic nerve and other cranial nerves are sometimes involved and when the intracranial pressure becomes involved, accompanying symptoms also appear, such as headache and vomiting."

How is ADEM Diagnosed?

Diagnosing ADEM could potentially be a lengthy and costly process. CT scans may be used to rule out other maladies, but MRI is a more sensitive test and is able to detect possible lesions in the brain, spine, and white matter. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) testing may be necessary to determine an ADEM diagnosis. Cerebrospinal fluid acts as a cushion for the brain, and testing of that fluid might return a verdict of increased lymphocytes. Finally, a biopsy of the brain and other blood tests could be ordered.

How is ADEM Treated?

For treatment, methyl-prednisolone or other steroids could be administered. The next option is intravenous immunoglobulins. Plasma exchange or other blood therapy are also possible. Because of the risk of seizures, an anti-seizure medication could be prescribed. In many cases, treatment could necessitate a hospital stay and include a wide array of side effects that range in severity. Because ADEM is rare, it is not yet completely understood and there is no definitive outline for treatment other than successful case studies.

ADEM as a Result of Vaccination

ADEM is sometimes linked back to a vaccine. The Encephalomyelitis in ADEM is not to be confused with Encephalopathy or Encephalitis; ADEM itself is not specifically listed on the vaccine injury table but the VICP does pay out on it. One case study reported that "postinfectious and postvaccination encephalomyelitis may make up about three-quarters of ADEM cases." The study followed the admission, diagnosis and treatment of a 12-year-old male suffering from symptoms following a Hepatitis B vaccine.

Another research article explored cases of ADEM reported following vaccination in the US and the EU. This article explored 404 cases from both countries' reporting systems collectively. It was concluded that: most cases occured in those younger than 18 years; most cases occured within 30 days of vaccination; and that seasonal flu and HPV vaccines were the lead offenders, together accounting for 30% of cases. DTaP, TDAP, MMR, IPV and other vaccines were also responsible. Further, although there was believed to be a prevalence in children, "[ADEM] may occur at any age when post vaccination."

What About Compensation?

If you believe that you or a loved one have incurred ADEM as a result of a vaccination, time is of the essence. There is a strict three (3) year statute of limitations for you to file a claim for compensation in vaccine court. We recommend you call an experienced vaccine injury attorney as soon as possible to secure your claim. One must also obtain any medical records relating to the vaccine, including proof of immunization and any follow-ups or hospital visits, as these will be necessary to prove your claim. Because vaccine injury claims are handled on the federal level, you may never have to appear in court, and all lawyer's fees are reimbursed by the government if the claim is valid.

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