Reye's syndrome

Reye syndrome is a cellular disorder that can occur in children and adolescents. Read everything important now!

Reye's syndrome

The Reye's syndrome is a serious cellular dysfunction that can occur in young children and adolescents. It particularly affects the brain and liver and can be fatal. The exact causes are not yet clear. However, the Reye syndrome is particularly associated with influenza, herpes and chickenpox viruses. Scientists also believe that drugs such as acetylsalicylic acid can trigger the Reye syndrome after a virus infection.

ICD codes for this disease: ICD codes are internationally valid medical diagnosis codes. They are found e.g. in doctor's letters or on incapacity certificates. G93

Product Overview

Reye's syndrome

  • description

  • symptoms

  • Causes and risk factors

  • Examinations and diagnosis

  • treatment

  • Disease course and prognosis

Reye syndrome: description

Reye syndrome is a rare, serious and potentially life-threatening disease of the brain and liver ("hepatic encephalopathy") in children. It occurs especially after a virus infection and the intake of acetylsalicylic acid (ASA). The exact context is so far unclear. For example, the Reye syndrome was observed after infection with cold and flu viruses or chickenpox viruses. Also, viruses that cause gastrointestinal infections with diarrhea or vomiting, may be related to the Reye syndrome. The list of potentially involved viruses may be much longer.

The Reye syndrome was discovered in Australia in the 70's. Shortly thereafter, many cases of severe liver and brain disease in America were attributed to Reye's syndrome. It took a few more years, however, to make the first assumptions about a connection with viral diseases and the pain and fever drug acetylsalicylic acid. The consequence was a broad education by the media that acetylsalicylic acid should not be given to children. Although Reye's syndrome has been much less common since then, the association between the virus, ASA and Reye's syndrome has never been clearly established.

Reye syndrome: symptoms

Reye syndrome often occurs in children when parents are thinking that the viral infection has been overcome. It comes to increased vomiting without nausea. The child becomes increasingly confused, restless, irritable or even just weak and is always less accessible. In addition, a child with Reye syndrome can seizure and eventually even fall into a coma.

The reason for these symptoms is that the Reye syndrome increases the intracranial pressure, because fluid accumulates in the brain (edema formation). The increased pressure affects important nerve centers and nerve tracts in the brain.

At the same time, Reye syndrome causes liver damage and fatty degeneration. Their function is severely limited, leading to a variety of metabolic disorders with different symptoms. Thus, in addition to the neurotoxin ammonia also bilirubin increasingly enters the blood, which can provide a yellow skin color.

In general, the child is seriously ill, and urgently needs intensive care.

Reye syndrome: causes and risk factors

The exact causes of Reye syndrome are unknown. However, it is known that Reye syndrome causes damage to the mitochondria. Mitochondria are often referred to as the powerhouses of cells because they are essential for energy production. The malfunction of the mitochondria in Reye syndrome is particularly evident in the cells of the liver and brain, but also in the muscles, for example.

Salicylates like ASA can interfere with the metabolism of the mitochondria, making them more susceptible to further damage. Some experts explain the relationship between ASA and Reye syndrome. This connection, which has been accepted by experts, has never been scientifically proven. The same applies to the assumption that certain viruses trigger the Reye syndrome.

In addition to viral infections, salicylates and age, there may also be a genetic risk for the disease. Some people are apparently more susceptible to Reye syndrome than others. The exact genetic causes are still unclear.

Reye syndrome: examinations and diagnosis

The doctor first raises the medical history (anamnesis). For example, he asks the child's parents if he has recently had a viral infection and / or has taken salicylates. Also important are the description of the symptoms such as vomiting, possible seizures and increasing confusion and restlessness. They are possible signs of brain involvement.

Depending on the extent of the disease, the liver may be enlarged in Reye syndrome, which the doctor can detect when palpating the abdomen. In addition, a blood test may provide evidence of liver involvement.

blood test

In the case of liver damage, certain substances increasingly enter the blood, such as liver enzymes (transaminases) as well as waste products, which actually filter and degrade the liver from the blood. For example, increased liver enzyme levels and elevated levels of ammonia may indicate liver damage.

Since the liver is also responsible for the blood sugar level, a simple blood glucose test can give a quick information about the liver function - in the case of Reye's syndrome, hypoglycaemia may be present.

The liver is also involved in blood clotting. In Reye syndrome, therefore, the blood clotting time may be prolonged. This can be determined by means of the Quick value or the INR (international normalized ratio), determined with the help of a blood sample.

tissue sample

To confirm the diagnosis "Reye syndrome", the doctor can take a tissue sample (biopsy) of the liver and examine it for a corresponding cell damage. This is especially the mitochondrial damage. In addition, in Reye's syndrome increased fat accumulation in the cells. This is a sign that the liver can no longer adequately process the fat.

Other investigations

Information about the condition of the liver can also give an ultrasound examination. If the physician suspects an increased intracranial pressure, this is checked by computerized tomography (CT).

The Reye syndrome can not be easily distinguished from other diseases. The various symptoms can also be caused by other diseases, including those that are much more common than the rare Reye syndrome. For this reason, several other diagnostic tests are made to exclude, for example, meningitis, septicemia or severe intestinal disease.

Reye syndrome: treatment

The Reye syndrome can not be treated causally. The doctors can only try to alleviate the symptoms and ensure the survival of the patient. This requires intensive care treatment.

The focus is particularly on brain swelling (brain edema) and liver failure. With the help of drugs that are added directly into the bloodstream and other measures (such as elevation of the upper body), you can try to lower the pressure in the brain. In severe liver damage, the organ must be supported in its tasks (such as filter function and the regulation of the sugar metabolism). For example, an excessive level of ammonia in the blood (hyperammonaemia) can be treated by medication (with sodium benzoate) or by dialysis (hemofiltration). In severe cases of liver damage, a liver transplant may be required.

The work of all body organs is related. Especially the kidney and the liver form a well-rehearsed team. Renal failure (hepatorenal syndrome) therefore threatens sudden liver damage. With the help of medicines, the medical team can uphold urinary excretion via the kidney.

Cardiac and pulmonary functions are also closely monitored, as, for example, artificial respiration may become necessary due to brain damage.

Reye syndrome: disease course and prognosis

The Reye syndrome is very rare, but usually takes a fast and difficult course. About 50 percent of the patients die. Many survivors suffer permanent damage. So it remains after a surviving Reye's syndrome often a brain injury, which manifests itself for example by paralysis or speech disorders.

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