Diagnostic criteria for chronic lymphocytic inflammation with pontine perivascular enhancement responsive to steroids (CLIPPERS)

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Abstract

Chronic lymphocytic inflammation with pontine perivascular enhancement responsive to steroids (CLIPPERS) is a central nervous system inflammatory syndrome predominantly affecting the brainstem, cerebellum, and spinal cord. Following its initial description, the salient features of CLIPPERS have been confirmed and expanded upon, but the lack of formalized diagnostic criteria has led to reports of patients with dissimilar features purported to have CLIPPERS. We evaluated clinical, radiological and pathological features of patients referred for suspected CLIPPERS and propose diagnostic criteria to discriminate CLIPPERS from non-CLIPPERS aetiologies. Thirty-five patients were evaluated for suspected CLIPPERS. Clinical and neuroimaging data were reviewed by three neurologists to confirm CLIPPERS by consensus agreement. Neuroimaging and neuropathology were reviewed by experienced neuroradiologists and neuropathologists, respectively, both of whom were blinded to the clinical data. CLIPPERS was diagnosed in 23 patients (18 male and five female) and 12 patients had a non-CLIPPERS diagnosis. CLIPPERS patients' median age of onset was 58 years (interquartile range, 24–72) and were followed a median of 44 months (interquartile range 38–63). Non-CLIPPERS patients' median age of onset was 52 years (interquartile range, 39–59) and were followed a median of 27 months (interquartile range, 14–47). Clinical symptoms of gait ataxia, diplopia, cognitive impairment, and facial paraesthesia did not discriminate CLIPPERS from non-CLIPPERS. Marked clinical and radiological corticosteroid responsiveness was observed in CLIPPERS (23/23), and clinical worsening occurred in all 12 CLIPPERS cases when corticosteroids were discontinued. Corticosteroid responsiveness was common but not universal in non-CLIPPERS [clinical improvement (8/12); radiological improvement (2/12); clinical worsening on discontinuation (3/8)]. CLIPPERS patients had brainstem predominant perivascular gadolinium enhancing lesions on magnetic resonance imaging that were discriminated from non-CLIPPERS by: homogenous gadolinium enhancing nodules <3 mm in diameter without ring-enhancement or mass effect, and homogenous T2 signal abnormality not significantly exceeding the T1 enhancement. Brain neuropathology on 14 CLIPPERS cases demonstrated marked CD3-positive T-lymphocyte, mild B-lymphocyte and moderate macrophage infiltrates, with perivascular predominance as well as diffuse parenchymal infiltration (14/14), present in meninges, white and grey matter, associated with variable tissue destruction, astrogliosis and secondary myelin loss. Clinical, radiological and pathological feature define CLIPPERS syndrome and are differentiated from non-CLIPPERS aetiologies by neuroradiological and neuropathological findings.

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