Anti-NMDAR encephalitis for psychiatrists: the essentials.


Anti-N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) encephalitis predominantly presents with psychiatric symptoms. Psychiatrists need to be alert to this diagnostic possibility, especially in female adolescents and young adults, as exemplified by the real (de-identified) case outlined below. Earlier diagnosis and immunotherapy improves long-term outcomes. Collaboration with neurology colleagues is essential for optimal care. 'Red flags' for autoimmune encephalitis and 'diagnostic clues' act as helpful aide memoires for this uncommon condition. The gold standard for testing is the detection of NMDAR antibodies in cerebrospinal fluid, but serum can be tested as a more accessible (but less reliable) preliminary step. The results of routine blood tests, magnetic resonance imaging of the head and electroencephalograms can be normal or show non-specific changes. Diagnostic criteria exist to define probable and definite cases. Immunotherapy for anti-NMDAR encephalitis is effective for many patients, but recovery is prolonged and relapses can occur.