Central nervous system (CNS) manifestations are not rare in pediatric rheumatic diseases. They may be a relatively common feature of the disease, as in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and Behcets disease. Direct CNS involvement of a systemic rheumatic disease, primary CNS vasculitis, indirect involvement secondary to hypertension, hypoxia and metabolic changes, and drug associated adverse events may all result in CNS involvement. We have reviewed the CNS manifestations of SLE, Behcets disease, Henoch- Schonlein purpura, polyarteritis nodosa, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, juvenile ankylosing spondylitis, familial Mediterranean fever, scleroderma, sarcoidosis, Wegeners granulomatosis, Takayasus arteritis, CINCA syndrome, Kawasaki disease, and primary CNS vasculitis; and adverse CNS effects of anti-rheumatic drugs in pediatric patients. The manifestations are diverse; ranging from headache, seizures, chorea, changes in personality, depression, memory and concentration problems, cognitive impairment, cerebrovascular accidents to coma, and death. The value of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) examination (pleocytosis, high level of protein), auto-antibodies in serum and CSF, electroencephalography, neuroimaging with computerized tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, SPECT, PET, and angiography depends on the disease. Brain biopsy is gold standard for the diagnosis of CNS vasculitis, however it may be inconclusive in 25% of cases. A thorough knowledge of the rheumatic diseases and therapy-related adverse events is mandatory for the management of a patient with rheumatic disease and CNS involvement. Severe CNS involvement is associated with poor prognosis, and high mortality rate. High dose steroid and cyclophosphamide (oral or intravenous) are first choice drugs in the treatment; plasmapheresis, IVIG, thalidomide, and intratechal treatment may be valuable in treatment-resistant, and serious cases.
Keywords: Central nervous system, rheumatic disease, neurologic, toxicity, treatment