Background To report the diversity of MRI features of brainstem encephalitis (BE) induced by Enterovirus 71. This is supported by implementation and testing of our new classification scheme in order to improve the diagnostic level on this specific disease.

Methods Neuroimaging of 91 pediatric patients who got EV71 related BE were hospitalized between March, 2010 to October, 2012, were analyzed retrospectively. All patients underwent pre- and post-contrast MRI scan. Thereafter, 31 patients were randomly called back for follow-up MRI study during December 2013 to August 2014. The MRI signal patterns of BE primary lesion were analyzed and classified according to MR signal alteration at various disease stages. Findings in fatal and non-fatal cases were compared, and according to the MRI scan time point during the course of this disease, the patients’ conditions were classified as 1) acute stage, 2) convalescence stage, 3) post mortem stage, and 4) long term follow-up study.

Results 103 patients were identified. 11 patients did not undergo MRI, as they died within 48 hours. One patient died on 14th day without MR imaging. 2 patients had postmortem MRI. Medical records and imaging were reviewed in the 91 patients, aged 4 months to 12 years, and two cadavers who have had MRI scan. At acute stage: the most frequent pattern (40 patients) was foci of prolonged T1 and T2 signal, with (15) or without (25) contrast enhancement. We observed a novel pattern in 4 patients having foci of low signal intensity on T2WI, with contrast enhancement. Another pattern in 10 patients having foci of contrast enhancement without abnormalities in T1WI or T2WI weighted images. Based on 2 cases, the entire medulla and pons had prolonged T1 and T2 signal, and 2 of our postmortem cases demonstrated the same pattern. At convalescence stage, the pattern observed in 4 patients was foci of prolonged T1 and T2 signal without contrast enhancement. Follow-up MR study of 31 cases showed normal in 26 cases, and demonstrated foci of prolonged T1 and T2 signal with hyper-intensity on FLAIR in 3 cases, or of prolonged T1 and T2 signal with hypo-intensity on FLAIR in 2 cases. Most importantly, MR findings of each case were thoroughly investigated and classified according to phases and MRI signal alteration.

Conclusions This study has provided enhanced and useful information for the MRI features of BE induced by EV71, apart from common practice established by previous reports. In addition, a classification scheme that summarizes all types of features based on the MRI signal at the four different stages of the disease would be helpful to improve the diagnostic level.

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Notes/Citation Information

Published in PLOS ONE, v. 11, no. 10, e0162877, p. 1-15.

© 2016 Zeng et al.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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Funding Information

This project was supported by Science, Technology and Innovation Grant of Shenzhen Municipality (No. JCYJ20140416141331532).

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Due to conditions of informed consent and ethical restrictions imposed by Shenzhen Childrens Hospital Ethics Committee, data are available upon request. Please contact the first author, Dr. Hongwu Zeng (homerzeng@126.com), to request data.

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