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Incidence of acquired demyelination of the central nervous system in Canadian children

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Medical Update Memo
February 11, 2009


Canadian researchers led by Canadian pediatric neurologist Dr. Banwell, report on the frequency of MS in Canadian children and found that it is about 1 per 100,000 population. (Neurology. 2009 Jan 20;72(3):232-9)


BACKGROUND: The incidence of acquired demyelination of the CNS (acquired demyelinating syndromes [ADS]) in children is unknown. It is important that physicians recognize the features of ADS to facilitate care and to appreciate the future risk of multiple sclerosis (MS).

OBJECTIVE: To determine the incidence, clinical features, familial autoimmune history, and acute management of Canadian children with ADS.

METHODS: Incidence and case-specific data were obtained through the Canadian Pediatric Surveillance Program from April 1, 2004, to March 31, 2007. Before study initiation, a survey was sent to all pediatric health care providers to determine awareness of MS as a potential outcome of ADS in children.

RESULTS: Two hundred nineteen children with ADS (mean age 10.5 years, range 0.66-18.0 years; female to male ratio 1.09:1) were reported. The most common presentations were optic neuritis (ON; n = 51, 23%), acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM; n = 49, 22%), and transverse myelitis (TM; n = 48, 22%). Children with ADEM were more likely to be younger than 10 years, whereas children with monolesional ADS (ON, TM, other) were more likely to be older than 10 years (p < 0.001). There were 73 incident cases per year, leading to an annual incidence of 0.9 per 100,000 Canadian children. A family history of MS was reported in 8%. Before study initiation, 65% of physicians indicated that they considered MS as a possible outcome of ADS in children. This increased to 74% in year 1, 81% in year 2, and 87% in year 3.

CONCLUSION: The incidence of pediatric acquired demyelinating syndromes (ADS) is 0.9 per 100,000 Canadian children. ADS presentations are influenced by age.

This study was funded by the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and the Multiple Sclerosis Scientific Research Foundation.

National Research and Programs

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