Ruth Ann Baird, MD
Sam Wiebe, MD
Joseph R. Zunt, MD,
John J. Halperin, MD,
Gary Gronseth, MD,
Karen L. Roos, MD,
American Academy of Neurology:
Supplemental data at
Evidence-based guideline: Treatment of
Report of the Guideline Development Subcommittee of the
American Academy of Neurology
Objective: To review the evidence base for different treatment strategies in intraparenchymal
neurocysticercosis in adults and children.
Method: A literature search of Medline, EMBASE, LILACS, and the Cochrane Database from 1980
to 2008, updated in 2012, resulted in the identification of 10 Class I or Class II trials of cysticidal
drugs administered with or without corticosteroids in the treatment of neurocysticercosis.
Results: The available data demonstrate that albendazole therapy, administered with or without
corticosteroids, is probably effective in decreasing both long-term seizure frequency and the
number of cysts demonstrable radiologically in adults and children with neurocysticercosis, and
is well-tolerated. There is insufficient information to assess the efficacy of praziquantel.
Recommendations: Albendazole plus either dexamethasone or prednisolone should be considered
for adults and children with neurocysticercosis, both to decrease the number of active lesions on
brain imaging studies (Level B) and to reduce long-term seizure frequency (Level B). The evidence
is insufficient to support or refute the use of steroid treatment alone in patients with intraparen-
chymal neurocysticercosis (Level U). Neurology?2013;80:1424–1429
AED 5 antiepileptic drug; CI 5 confidence interval; RCT 5 randomized controlled trial.
Cysticercosis, infection with the larval form of Taenia
solium, is widely prevalent in developing countries of
Africa, Asia, and Latin America. It is considered by the
WHO to be the most common preventable cause of
epilepsy in the developing world, with an estimated 2
million people having epilepsy caused by T solium
infection.1Humans can acquire 2 different forms of
ing T solium cysts or by eating food contaminated with
T solium eggs. Cysts consumed in undercooked meat
mature into adult parasites in the human intestine, at
which time they release eggs and gravid proglottids in
the stool. This form of intestinal infection is called tae-
niasis. When T solium eggs are consumed, through
fecal–oral transmission from another human with tae-
niasis or through autoinfection, they release onco-
spheres into the host’s digestive tract and can then
in end organs. This systemic infection is called cysticer-
cosis. Seeding of larvae in the CNS results in neuro-
cysticercosis. Neurocysticercosis, in turn, may affect the
CNS parenchyma or the CSF space. In this guideline,
we focus solely on parenchymal infections.
Cysticercal cysts evolve through 4 stages, with differ-
ent appearances on neuroimaging—the vesicular stage,
where the cyst contains a living larva; a colloidal stage as
the larva degenerates; a “granulo-nodular” stage as the
membrane of the cyst thickens; and the final stage of
calcification. Only cysts in the vesicular and colloidal
stages contain live larvae2and are amenable to anticy-
sticercal treatment. Encysted larvae can remain asymp-
tomatic for years. When the larvae do elicit a host
immune response, patients can develop brain edema
and, more often, seizures. Optimal treatment of this
From the Departments of Clinical Neurology (R.A.B.) and Neurology and Neurological Surgery (K.L.R.), Indiana University School of Medicine,
Indianapolis; Division of Neurology (S.W.), University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada; Department of Neurology (J.R.Z.), University of Washington,
Seattle; Department of Neurosciences (J.J.H.), Overlook Medical Center, Summit, NJ; Department of Neurology and Medicine (J.J.H.), Mount
Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY; and Department of Neurology (G.G.), University of Kansas, Kansas City, KS.
Appendices e-1 through e-8 and the e-tables are available as data supplements on the Neurology®website at www.neurology.org.
Accepted for publication by the Guideline Development Subcommittee on July 14, 2012; by the Practice Committee on July 24, 2012; and by the AAN
Board of Directors on December 26, 2012.
Go to Neurology.org for full disclosures. Funding information and disclosures deemed relevant by the authors, if any, are provided at the end of the article.
1424 © 2013 American Academy of Neurology
infection has been the subject of considerable debate,
with controversy regarding the appropriate role of both
corticosteroids and cysticidal drugs such as praziquantel
or albendazole for active infections.
To address this controversy, we performed a sys-
tematic review of the literature regarding the follow-
ing specific clinical questions:
1. In patients with symptomatic intraparenchymal
neurocysticercosis, is cysticidal therapy more effec-
tive than no therapy, and does it affect long-term
2. In patients with symptomatic intraparenchymal neu-
rocysticercosis, is treatment with corticosteroids
more effective than no treatment?
3. When during the course of antiparasitic treatment
should steroids be started?
4. What is the efficacy of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) in
treating or decreasing occurrence of subsequent seiz-
ures secondary to intraparenchymal neurocysticerco-
sis, and what is the optimal time course of AED
treatment for seizures secondary to intraparenchymal
DESCRIPTION OFTHE ANALYTICPROCESS Because
cysticercosis is quite prevalent in Latin America, a
number of relevant studies have been published in
the Spanish-language literature. Therefore, a com-
prehensive search was performed of both English- and
Spanish-language articles (with the latter reviewed by 2
ish) in Medline, EMBASE, LILACS, and Cochrane
Database of Systematic Reviews from 1980 to 2008,
ticercosis,” “brain cysticercosis,” “antiparasitic agents,”
“antihelmintics,” “cysticidal,” “clinical trials,” “research
design,” “antiseizure,” “anticonvulsant,” “antiepileptic,”
“anti-inflammatory agents,” “hydrocortisone,” “predni-
gery” (see appendix e-1 on the Neurology®Web site at
www.neurology.org for complete search strategy). The
search identified 590 citations. An updated search of
Medline and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Re-
views was performed in January 2012 and identified an
additional 20 citations. Each abstract was reviewed by at
least 2 reviewers. Review articles without primary data,
case reports, and small case series were discarded. The
remaining pertinent 123 articles were reviewed in detail,
and data regarding cohort size, patient characteristics,
inclusion and exclusion criteria, completion rate,
treatment and dosage, study design, study length,
primary and secondary outcomes, efficacy, and effect
data extraction form. Each article was classified according
to the American Academy of Neurology therapeutic clas-
sification of evidence scheme (see appendix e-4).
Risk differences with 95% confidence intervals (CIs)
were used as the preferred measure of effect and statisti-
cal precision. When necessary to increase statistical pre-
cision,studieswiththe lowestriskofbiaswere pooledin
a fixed-effects meta-analysis. Class II studies were
included in the meta-analysis only when precision was
insufficient after Class I studies were pooled.
ANALYSIS OF EVIDENCE In patients with symptomatic
intraparenchymal neurocysticercosis, is cysticidal therapy
more effective than no therapy, and does it affect long-term
seizure outcome? Treatment efficacy can be judged by a
radiologic surrogate marker—the numbers of remain-
ing active and inactive cysts—and clinically by the num-
ber of patients experiencing seizures after treatment. Of
note in these studies, patients received anticonvulsants
controlled as part of the treatment protocols. Also of
note, although some of the cited studies were limited
to patients with active cysts, some included individuals
with transitional cysts, in which the parasite is already
dead or dying. Because cysticidal therapy would not be
expected to affect the disease course if the organism were
already dead, this may actually have led to an underesti-
mation of treatment efficacy.
Three Class I325(1 Class I for imaging only5and
Class IV for clinical measures, including seizure fre-
quency) and 6 Class II studies6–11(1 Class II for imag-
(administered with or without steroids) in the initial
treatment of neurocysticercosis. One11of the Class II
studies compared albendazole alone with albendazole
was not informative regarding whether antihelminthic
therapy is useful. (There was no difference in any out-
come measure between the 2 regimens.) Five of the
remaining Class II studies were restricted to the pedi-
atric population.7–11One of these studies was Class II
for imaging studies only.9One Class I study3included
adults only. Two Class I studies3,4and all 5 pediatric
Class II studies7–11combined corticosteroid treatment
with cysticidal therapy.
One randomized controlled trial (RCT) (Class I)
evaluated 120 patients with viable parenchymal cysts
and seizures who were assigned to receive either albenda-
zole (800 mg/day) plus dexamethasone (6 mg/day, both
for 10 days) or 2 placebos.3During months 2–30
following treatment, there was a nonsignificant
46% reduction in the number of total seizures
(95% CI 74% to 83%) in the albendazole/dexa-
methasone group as compared with placebo and a
significant 67% reduction in number of seizures
with generalization (95% CI 20% to 86%, p 5
0.01). At 6-month follow-up the number of patients
Neurology 80April 9, 20131425
with active cysts on imaging studies was significantly
lower in patients receiving active treatment than in
those receiving placebo (p , 0.007). Therapy was
well-tolerated with the exception of abdominal pain
and nausea, which were reported more commonly in
the treatment group. The studies do not state
whether gastrointestinal prophylaxis was used.
An RCT (Class II) in 29 patients with multiple
cystic lesions on CT (cysts of all types, excluding only
calcified cysts)6who received either albendazole (15
mg/kg/day for 7 days) or placebo showed no signifi-
cant difference in total number of lesions or resolu-
tion of cysts on head CT at 1 week, 1 month, and 3
months. Seizure outcomes were not reported.
A third RCT, in which all patients had active or tran-
sitional (i.e., vesicular evolving into colloidal) cysts,4as-
or weight based) and 90 patients to receive prednisone
and placebo. At 1 month, cysts had disappeared in 31%
of those receiving albendazole and in 7% of those receiv-
ing prednisone alone (p , 0.001). When Kaplan-Meyer
projections were applied, at 12 months 62% of patients
receiving albendazole were seizure-free vs 52% of con-
trols (not significant).
In a fourth RCT,5in which all patients had contrast-
enhancing cysts, 33 patients received 3 days of albenda-
zole (15 mg/kg for 3 days, without corticosteroids), and
34 patients received placebo. At 6 months, cysts had
resolved completely in 85% of those receiving albenda-
zole and in 41% of those receiving placebo (p , 0.001).
Seizure frequency was low in both groups at 6-month
follow-up, with no significant difference in frequency.
In the pediatric population, 4 Class II studies pro-
vide conflicting results for radiologic outcomes but
used differing criteria. Two studies7,9(63 patients and
93 patients, respectively) found a decrease in active le-
sionsinpatientsreceivingalbendazole (15 mg/kg/dayfor
28 days in both, prednisolone 1–2 mg/kg/day for the
first 5 days in the first, dexamethasone 0.15 mg/kg/day
for 5 days in the second). In the first study, CT scans
performed 3 months after treatment showed disappear-
ance of active lesions in 64.5% of patients treated with
albendazole and in 37.5% of controls. In the second
study, CT scans performed at 3 months demonstrated
complete or partial resolution of cysts in 79% of patients
given treatment vs in 57% of controls. Two8,10studies
(with 53 patients and 110 patients, respectively) found
no difference in the number of patients in whom lesions
disappeared (treatment albendazole 15 mg/kg/day for 28
days, with prednisolone 2 mg/kg/day for 3 days before
albendazole in the first; albendazole 15 mg/kg/day for 4
1-week taper in the second). In the first, cysts disap-
peared on 6-month follow-up CT scan in 54% of pa-
tients receiving treatment and in 55% of those receiving
placebo. In the second, single cysts disappeared on
3-month follow-up CT in 53% of patients receiving
steroids, in 60% of those receiving albendazole, and in
63% of those receiving both treatments. One Class II
treated patients, although the numbers were small in
both groups, and the difference was not significant.
One Class II study10showed cysticidal therapy was ben-
eficial in reducing seizure recurrence.
To increase the precision of the estimate of the effec-
tiveness of albendazole regarding seizure frequency, we
performed a meta-analysis combining the 2 Class I3,4
Overall, there was a 6.1% decrease in the risk of having
seizures (95% CI 0.3% to 11.9%, number needed to
treat 5 16).
Conclusion. Based on imaging findings in 4 Class I
studies (3 concordant, 1 underpowered study failing to
show an effect) and a meta-analysis of 2 Class I and 4
Class II studies, albendazole (400 mg BID for adults
or weight-based dosing for either adults or children) is
probably safe and effective in reducing both the number
of cysts and long-term seizure frequency in adults and
combination appears effective. Data are insufficient to
indicate whether corticosteroids are necessary in this
Clinical context. The available studies have used
different stratification methods for seizure analysis
and different criteria for judging improvement in
FigureEffect on seizure risk
Meta-analysis, combining data from the 2 Class I and 4 Class II studies with outcome data
regarding seizure risk (proportion of treated patients with seizures relative to proportion of
untreated patients with seizures).
1426 Neurology 80 April 9, 2013
imaging. On the basis of the 3 Class I studies it ap-
pears albendazole plus corticosteroids decreases the
number of active brain lesions relative to placebo
and, on the basisofa meta-analysisofavailable data,de-
creases the number of patients with seizures, at modest
cost. These findings appear to be consistent in adults
concern has been the potential—emphasized in a single
large study12—for increased seizures and encephalopa-
thy as a result of treatment-induced parasite death.
This study, in which all patients had multiple cysts
(with 5 or more cysts in over 25% of patients) and in
which neither allocation nor treatment was con-
cealed, was considered to be Class IV and therefore
not considered contributory. Of the 3 Class I or II
studies that reported seizure frequency during treat-
ment,3,4,7none showed an increase in seizure fre-
quency with treatment (pooled risk difference vs
placebo 20.1%, 95% CI 26.2% to 5.9%). Only
2 studies3,4detailed other side effects. In the first
study3headaches occurred in 32 of 60 patients
given treatment vs in 31 of 60 controls; dizziness
occurred in 9 patients vs in 4, and abdominal com-
plaints occurred in 8 vs in 0. Only the last finding
was significant; however, patients given treatment in
this study all received corticosteroids, whereas con-
trols did not. In the second study, headaches
occurred in 59 of 88 patients given treatment vs in
53 of 90 controls; abdominal complaints occurred in
38 vs in 40 (neither side-effect finding being
Recommendations often emphasize the danger of
antihelminthic treatment in patients with a very large
lesion burden. The cited studies all excluded patients
with massive cerebral edema or innumerable lesions
but were otherwise inconsistent. Three studies5,7,10
were limited to patients with single lesions. In one
study, patients had 1 or 2 cysts.9In another study,
84% of patients had 1 or 2; the remainder had fewer
than 100. In the remaining 3 studies, the number of
cysts was described as “multiple,”6“less than 20,”3and
“less than 36.”4
Recommendation. Albendazole plus either dexametha-
sone or prednisolone should be considered for adults
and children with neurocysticercosis, both to decrease
the number of active lesions on brain imaging studies
(Level B) and to reduce long-term seizure frequency
neurocysticercosis, is treatment with corticosteroids
more effective than no treatment? One Class I study13and
one Class II/Class IV study14assessed steroid treatment
I study,148 patients with solitarycysts were randomized
to receive prednisolone (40–60 mg/day on the basis of
patientswith symptomatic intraparenchymal
weight for 2 weeks, followed by a 4-day taper) or pla-
cebo. At 3 months there were no differences in imaging
findings or in overall seizure frequency between the 2
groups. Frequency of generalized seizures at follow-up
was 16% in patients receiving corticosteroids and 60%
in controls; frequency of focal seizures was 63% among
those receiving methylprednisolone and 25% among
controls (both differences significant).
The second study14included 97 patients with new-
onset seizures and a single enhancing CT lesion,
randomized to receive AEDs plus prednisolone (pred-
nisolone 1 mg/kg/day for 10 days, followed by a 4-day
taper) or AED monotherapy alone. At 6-month follow-
up, the CT lesions had disappeared in 88% of patients
in the prednisolone group vs in 52% of those in the
mated risk of seizure recurrence was significantly less in
the study showed benefit, the strength of evidence is
Class II for CT resolution of lesions outcome and Class
IV for seizure outcome.
Conclusion. On the basis of one Class I study showing
ficient evidence to recommend steroid treatment alone
Clinical context. The effect of corticosteroid treatment
alone in neurocysticercosis has not been widely studied.
Most trials include a combination of cysticidal therapy
and steroid treatment.
or refute the use of steroid treatment alone in patients
with intraparenchymal neurocysticercosis (Level U).
When during the course of antiparasitic treatment should
steroids be started? We found no studies to answer this
What is the efficacy of AEDs in treating or decreasing
occurrence of subsequent seizures secondary to
intraparenchymal neurocysticercosis, and what is the
optimal time course of AED treatment for seizures
secondary to intraparenchymal neurocysticercosis? We
found no studies to answer this question.
Clinical context.Given the well-established efficacy and
safety of a broad range of AEDs and the frequency with
which neurocysticercosis causes seizures, it is reasonable
to treat these patients with AEDs at least until the active
lesions have subsided.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
Several aspects of treatment require further study.
1. Cysticercal cysts evolve through 4 stages: the living
larva, the degenerating larva, a reactive thickening of
the cyst membrane, and calcification. Only cysts in
the first 2 stages contain live cysts.2A study that
Neurology 80 April 9, 20131427
evaluates the response to therapy on the basis of the
stage of the cyst would be useful.
2. The successful treatment trials cited all used cystici-
dal therapy administered with or without cortico-
steroids. Studies are needed to determine the
appropriate use and timing of administration of
adjuvant corticosteroids and the potential benefit
of combination cysticidal therapy.
3. Neurocysticercosis can be intraventricular or intraoc-
ular or can involve the subarachnoid space. Studies
have not addressed these forms of the infection.
Assessment of different treatment strategies, medical
or surgical, for such patients would be helpful.
4. HIV coinfection may alter efficacy of antihelminthic
treatment or produce important drug–drug interac-
tions; determination of best treatment for neurocysti-
cercosis in such patients is needed.
5. Additional studies should focus on clinical outcomes
always correlate. Patients may experience seizure
recurrence despite resolution of lesions on CT.
Ruth Ann Baird: drafting/revising the manuscript, study concept or design, anal-
ysis or interpretation of data. Samuel Wiebe: drafting/revising the manuscript,
study concept or design, analysis or interpretation of data. Joseph Raymond
Zunt: drafting/revising the manuscript, study concept or design, analysis or inter-
pretation of data. John Halperin: drafting/revising the manuscript, study concept
or design, analysis or interpretation of data, statistical analysis, study supervision.
Gary Gronseth: drafting/revising the manuscript, analysis or interpretation of
data, statistical analysis. Karen L. Roos: drafting/revising the manuscript, study
concept or design, analysis or interpretation of data, study supervision.
This guideline was developed with financial support from the American Acad-
emy of Neurology. None of the authors received reimbursement, honoraria, or
stipends for their participation in development of this guideline.
R.A. Baird has no disclosures to report. S. Wiebe has received honoraria from
UCB Pharma Inc. and has received research funding from Alberta Heritage
Medical Research Foundation, Canadian Institute for Health Research, MSI
Foundation of Alberta, and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute of the University of
Calgary. J.R. Zunt has received honoraria from the American Academy of Neu-
rology and has received funding from the NIH on retroviral infections. J. Hal-
perin has testified in several physician medical malpractice cases and aided the
Connecticut Department of Health in proceedings regarding Lyme disease.
G. Gronseth has served on a speakers’ bureau for Boehringer Ingelheim
(resigned December 2011), and receives honoraria from the American Acad-
emy of Neurology. K. Roos has received funding for travel from the American
Academy of Neurology as a member of its Board of Directors. Go to
Neurology.org for full disclosures.
This statement is provided as an educational service of the American Academy
of Neurology. It is based on an assessment of current scientific and clinical
information. It is not intended to include all possible proper methods of care
for a particular neurologic problem or all legitimate criteria for choosing to
use a specific procedure. Neither is it intended to exclude any reasonable alter-
native methodologies. The AAN recognizes that specific patient care decisions
are the prerogative of the patient and the physician caring for the patient, based
on all of the circumstances involved. The clinical context section is made avail-
able in order to place the evidence-based guideline(s) into perspective with cur-
rent practice habits and challenges. Formal practice recommendations are not
intended to replace clinical judgment.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
The American Academy of Neurology is committed to producing independent,
critical, and truthful clinical practice guidelines (CPGs). Significant efforts are
made to minimize the potential for conflicts of interest to influence the recom-
mendations of this CPG. To the extent possible, the AAN keeps separate those
who have a financial stake in the success or failure of the products appraised in
the CPGs and the developers of the guidelines. Conflict of interest forms were
obtained from all authors and reviewed by an oversight committee before pro-
ject initiation. AAN limits the participation of authors with substantial conflicts
of interest. The AAN forbids commercial participation in, or funding of, guide-
line projects. Drafts of the guideline have been reviewed by at least 3 AAN
committees, a network of neurologists, Neurology peer reviewers, and represen-
tatives from related fields. The AAN Guideline Author Conflict of Interest
Policy can be viewed at www.aan.com.
Received August 3,2012. Accepted in finalform December 14, 2012.
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1428 Neurology 80April 9, 2013