Nodding syndrome in Ugandan children—clinical features, brain imaging and complications: a case series

Department of Paediatrics, Mulago Hospital/Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Kampala, Uganda.
BMJ Open (Impact Factor: 2.06). 05/2013; 3(5). DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2012-002540
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Nodding syndrome is a devastating neurological disorder of uncertain aetiology affecting children in Africa. There is no diagnostic test, and risk factors and symptoms that would allow early diagnosis are poorly documented. This study aimed to describe the clinical, electrophysiological and brain imaging (MRI) features and complications of nodding syndrome in Ugandan children.
Case series.
22 children with nodding syndrome brought to Mulago National Referral Hospital for assessment.
Clinical features, physical and functional disabilities, EEG and brain MRI findings and a staging system with a progressive development of symptoms and complications.
The median age of symptom onset was 6 (range 4-10) years and median duration of symptoms was 8.5 (range 2-11) years. 16 of 22 families reported multiple affected children. Physical manifestations and complications included stunting, wasting, lip changes and gross physical deformities. The bone age was delayed by 2 (range 1-6) years. There was peripheral muscle wasting and progressive generalised wasting. Four children had nodding as the only seizure type; 18 in addition had myoclonic, absence and/or generalised tonic-clonic seizures developing 1-3 years after the onset of illness. Psychiatric manifestations included wandering, aggression, depression and disordered perception. Cognitive assessment in three children demonstrated profound impairment. The EEG was abnormal in all, suggesting symptomatic generalised epilepsy in the majority. There were different degrees of cortical and cerebellar atrophy on brain MRI, but no hippocampal changes. Five stages with worsening physical, EEG and brain imaging features were identified: a prodrome, the development of head nodding and cognitive decline, other seizure types, multiple complications and severe disability.
Nodding syndrome is a neurological disorder that may be characterised as probably symptomatic generalised epilepsy. Clinical manifestations and complications develop in stages which might be useful in defining treatment and rehabilitation. Studies of risk factors, pathogenesis, management and outcome are urgently needed.

Download full-text


Available from: Angelina Kakooza, Feb 27, 2014
1 Follower
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Nodding Syndrome (NS), previously called Nodding Disease, is a chronic and debilitating illness affecting thousands of children aged 3-18 years in post-conflict Northern Uganda and South Sudan. Characterised by malnutrition, stunted growth, mental retardation and seizures, some researchers have designated it as epilepsy. With reports appearing in Northern Uganda in1997, NS reached epidemic proportions around 2000-2003 when people were moved into Internally Displaced People's (IDP) camps. Investigations for infections (onchocerciasis) and toxins have been inconclusive as to cause, treatment or outcome. No study has addressed the possible relationship of NS to childhood war-trauma experiences. To explore a possible relationship of exposure to prolonged war-trauma and the emergence of epidemic NS in Northern Uganda. This study was a case-series descriptive psychiatric naturalistic field observations of NS cases from homesteads in Northern Uganda and psychiatric investigations and treatment of NS cases referred to Mulago National Referral and Teaching Hospital. Detailed Psychiatric clinical evaluations and field observations revealed that NS children had been exposed to severe war-related psychological and physical trauma as well as non-specific CNS insults including untreated CNS infections/infestations and malnutrition possibly causing seizures. Many children suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. NS could present as an association of childhood complex PTSD, (called Developmental Trauma Disorder), occurring in the chronically war-traumatised children of Northern Uganda, complicated by severe prolonged depression with its characteristic symptoms of psychomotor retardation, anxiety, anhedonia and anorexia. This, coupled with food shortages, resulted in malnutrition, wasting and stunted growth with severe avitaminoses. Many children had seizures. All this calls for multi-disciplinary treatment approaches.
    African health sciences 06/2013; 13(2):205-18. DOI:10.4314/ahs.v13i2.3 · 0.66 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Nodding Syndrome is a poorly understood neurologic disorder of unknown aetiology that affects children and adolescents in Africa. Recent studies have suggested that the head nods are due to atonic seizures and Nodding Syndrome may be classified as probably symptomatic generalised epilepsy. As part of the Ugandan Ministry of Health clinical management response, a multidisciplinary team developed a manual to guide the training of health workers with knowledge and skills to manage the patients. In the absence of a known cause, it was decided to offer symptomatic care. The objective is to relieve symptoms, offer primary and secondary prevention for disability and rehabilitation to improve function. Initial management focuses on the most urgent needs of the patient and the immediate family until 'stability' is achieved. The most important needs were considered as seizure control, management of behavioural and psychiatric difficulties, nursing care, nutritional and subsequently, physical and cognitive rehabilitation. This paper summarises the processes by which the proposed guidelines were developed and provides an outline of the specific treatments currently being provided for the patients.
    African health sciences 06/2013; 13(2):219-232. DOI:10.4314/ahs.v13i2.4 · 0.66 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Background: Nodding syndrome (NS) is a seemingly progressive epilepsy disorder of unknown underlying cause. We investigated association of pyridoxal-phosphate serum levels and occurrence of anti-neuronal antibodies against N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor and voltage gated potassium channel (VGKC) complex in NS patients. Methods: Sera of a Tanzanian cohort of epilepsy and NS patients and community controls were tested for the presence of anti-NMDA-receptor and anti-VGKC complex antibodies by indirect immunofluorescence assay. Furthermore pyridoxal-phosphate levels were measured. Results: Auto-antibodies against NMDA receptor or VGKC (LG1 or Caspr2) complex were not detected in sera of patients suffering from NS (n=6), NS plus other seizure types (n=16), primary generalized epilepsy (n=1) and community controls without epilepsy (n=7). Median Pyridoxal-phosphate levels in patients with NS compared to patients with primary generalized seizures and community controls were not significantly different. However, these median pyridoxalphosphate levels are significantly lower compared to the range considered normal in Europeans. Conclusions: In this pilot study NS was not associated with serum anti-NMDA-receptor or anti-VGKC complex antibodies and no association to pyridoxal-phosphate serum levels was found.
    African Health Sciences 06/2014; 14(2):434-8. DOI:10.4314/ahs.v14i2.20 · 0.66 Impact Factor