Purpose: Acute encephalitis is a rare disease mainly occurring sporadically. Only limited data as to the long-term prognosis, in particular for impact on quality of life, is available.
Methods: Patients with a definite or highly probable diagnosis of acute encephalitis were identified through retrospective analysis and invited to undertake a structured interview and to fill in questionnaires regarding their quality of life. People who matched the patients in age, sex, and level of education were used as controls.
Results: Seventy-two patients and 57 controls were included. The period between the acute illness and the follow-up amounted to 6 to 93 months. The study showed a favorable outcome with complete or far-reaching functional recovery in most of the patients (83.3%). In cases that progressed in an unfavorable way such that cognitive handicaps were dominant, only 4% were left with extreme physical handicaps. Approximately 22% had postencephalitic epilepsy, which was correlated to a significantly more unfavorable outcome (P < 0.05). Women who have had encephalitis were significantly more depressive than men (P < 0.001) and also noticeably more depressive than female control subjects (P < 0.01). Furthermore, postencephalitic epilepsy was linked with significantly stronger likelihood of depression (P < 0.05).
Conclusions: In this study, most patients had a favorable outcome with complete or far-reaching functional recovery. Postencephalitic epilepsy is a risk factor for an unfavorable outcome and a factor that might hinder coping with the sequelae of acute encephalitis in the long term and that has a negative effect on mood.