I remember the very first consult I saw on my very first day of neurology training (writes Dr Anusha Yeshokumar).

I was called down to the Emergency Room to see a three-year-old boy who was subsequently diagnosed with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. I became close to his parents as we struggled to arrive at the correct diagnosis and determine the appropriate treatment regimen.

During the prolonged course of his recovery, his parents frequently asked about future long-term daily function and academic potential, and I realized how little was known about prognosis in this and other forms of encephalitis.

It was participating in the care of this little boy and his parents that first exposed me to the field of autoimmune neurology, and led to my decision to pursue a career in this field.

Dr Anusha Yeshokumar

In addition to caring for children and adults with encephalitis at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, I conduct research focused on understanding outcomes after encephalitis and identifying clinical and biological factors associated with these outcomes.

This work has fortunately enabled me to establish numerous national and international collaborations, including with leaders and members of the Encephalitis Society, and has helped me to better understand the effects of encephalitis on patients and their caregivers.

Individuals with encephalitis experience high rates of misdiagnosis, dissatisfaction with regard to preparation for transitions from inpatient hospital to outpatient care. Many individuals with encephalitis have persistent symptoms relating to cognition as well as ongoing difficulties with completing age-expected tasks, which results in a negative impact of the illness on psychosocial well-being.

Younger age of encephalitis symptom onset has been suggested to be associated with worse outcomes. We have demonstrated that many of these impairments are not adequately captured by routine neurological assessments and require a more holistic approach to assessing recovery. Finally, we have noted high levels of burden amongst caregivers of individuals with encephalitis.

Moving forward, we are engaged in exciting projects aimed at further characterising the recovery process after encephalitis and the changes in the brain that result. We are also eager to pinpoint factors that are associated with better outcomes with the goal of then designing interventions that may be beneficial to individuals with encephalitis.

*Dr Yeshokumar is Assistant Professor at the Icahn School of Medicine, The Mount Sinai Hospital, New York.