Like other forms of Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), the exact medical cause of Bickerstaff’s brainstem encephalitis (BBE) remains unknown. However, doctors have linked BBE to the vaccines for tetanus and influenza, and individuals diagnosed with BBE following these vaccinations can seek compensation for their medical bills and other losses through the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP).

Bickerstaff’s brainstem encephalitis (BBE) is a rare form of GBS that is most common in adults but has also been observed in children. It has a number of symptoms which, while treatable, can also lead to long-term residual effects. The treatment options for BBE are similar to those for other GBS variants, and prompt diagnosis is a key factor in improving patients’ chances of a making complete recovery.

Symptoms of Bickerstaff’s Brainstem Encephalitis

BBE shares many symptoms with other variants of GBS, though patients may also exhibit a number of unique symptoms. BBE’s initial presentation also mimics a variety of other illnesses, making accurate differential diagnosis a critical first step following the onset of symptoms. Individuals experiencing the following symptoms following a flu or tetanus vaccination should seek prompt medical attention and  tell their doctors about any recent vaccinations:

  • Apnea
  • Ataxia (loss of muscle control)
  • Double vision
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Sensory impairments
  • Severe or persistent headaches
  • Overly responsive reflexes
  • Paralysis of the eye muscles
  • Unusual gait
  • Upper body paralysis
  • Weakness in the limbs

In some cases, doctors have reported patients experiencing bulbar palsy, nystagmus (uncontrolled eye movements), paralysis and other severe complications.

Common Misdiagnoses for Individuals with BBE

Due to the limited treatment options available for BBE and other variants of GBS, obtaining an accurate diagnosis is crucial to reducing patients’ chances of experiencing long-term effects. Unfortunately, BBE is frequently misdiagnosed due to its long list of symptoms. The following are among the most-common misdiagnoses for patients exhibiting symptoms of BBE:

  • Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADE)
  • Bechet’s disease
  • Listeria rhombencephalitis
  • Lyme disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Vasculitis
  • Whipple’s disease

Individuals who have been diagnosed with any of these conditions following a flu or tetanus vaccination should consider seeking a second opinion.

Prognosis Following a BBE Diagnosis

In most cases, with appropriate treatment, individuals diagnosed with BBE will experience full remission of symptoms in approximately six months. However, as with other forms of GBS, relapses are possible due to the nature of the available treatment options, and long-term residual effects are possible. Due to the uncertainty involved in treatment and recovery, individuals diagnosed with vaccine-related BBE should evaluate their rights under the VICP.

Contact GBS Vaccine Lawyer to Discuss Your Rights

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with BBE following a flu or tetanus vaccination, at GBS Vaccine Lawyer, we can assist you in enforcing your rights under the VICP. To find out if you have a claim, and to learn more about our no-fee legal representation, please call (202) 775-9200 or submit our confidential online consultation form today.

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