CLIPPERS | MedLink Neurology (2023)


This article includes discussion of CLIPPERS and chronic lymphocytic inflammation with pontine perivascular enhancement responsive to steroids. The foregoing terms may include synonyms, similar disorders, variations in usage, and abbreviations.


Chronic lymphocytic inflammation with pontine perivascular enhancement responsive to steroids (CLIPPERS) is an inflammatory condition of unknown etiology, primarily involving the brainstem and cerebellum. Symptoms of CLIPPERS include subacute onset of brainstem symptoms--most prominently, ataxia, diplopia, dysarthria, and altered facial sensation. The core radiological features are punctate or curvilinear perivascular gadolinium enhancement, typically in the pons and adjacent cerebellum. Neuropathological examination of affected areas reveals a perivascular lymphocytic inflammation with predominant CD4+ T cells. Clinical and radiological features respond to high-dose corticosteroid treatment, but continuous oral corticosteroid treatment and steroid-sparing agents are needed to prevent relapses and to reduce the risk for subsequent parenchymal atrophy and chronic ataxia. The differential diagnosis for CLIPPERS is broad, and a careful workup is needed.

Key points

• CLIPPERS is a relapsing subacute brainstem syndrome presenting with symptoms such as ataxia, diplopia, dysarthria, and altered facial sensation.

• MRI shows punctate or curvilinear gadolinium enhancement in the pons and adjacent cerebellum. Lesions may extend into the basal ganglia or the cervico-thoracal medulla.

• Neuropathological examination of affected regions shows a perivascular lymphocytic inflammation that may involve both white and grey matter, with a CD4+ T cell predominance.

• No biomarker is available for CLIPPERS, and the differential diagnoses is broad, requiring a careful workup of alternative causes. Proposed diagnostic criteria are helpful in differentiating CLIPPERS from CLIPPERS mimics and, in typical cases, allow for diagnosis without brain biopsy.

• Both clinical symptoms and MRI abnormalities respond well to high-dose intravenous methylprednisolone, but continuous oral corticosteroid treatment and steroid-sparing agents are often needed to prevent relapses.

Historical note and terminology

CLIPPERS was initially described by Dr. Pittock and colleagues in 2010, based on a case series of 8 patients with similar clinical, radiological, and pathological features and a robust response to corticosteroid treatment (Pittock et al 2010). Following the original description, a number of smaller and larger case series and case reports described similar patients, expanding the clinical and pathological features (02; 11; 12; 14; 27; Taieb et al 2012; 34; 25; 15). Patients with alternative diagnoses initially suspected to have CLIPPERS have also been reported. These include CNS lymphoma (De Graff et al 2013; 18), systemic T cell lymphoma (21), Hodgkins lymphoma (19), primary cerebral angiitis (05), anti-MOG-associated disease (28), multiple sclerosis (22), and chronic hepatitis B infection (35). Such cases have led to discussion of whether CLIPPERS represents a unique condition or merely a group of disorders that share the early features of ataxia, brainstem symptoms, and pontine perivascular contrast-enhancement on MRI. A large case series of 35 patients with a presumed diagnosis of CLIPPERS (of whom 23 were ultimately diagnosed with this disorder) has led to proposed diagnostic criteria for the differentiation of CLIPPERS from its mimics (Tobin et al 2017).

Clinical manifestations

Presentation and course

Patients with CLIPPERS present with subacute brainstem symptoms--most often ataxia, diplopia, dysarthria, and altered facial sensation (Pittock et al 2010; Taieb et al 2012; 37). Less common brainstem features include pseudobulbar affect, tinnitus, nystagmus, facial palsy, dizziness, nausea, hiccups, and palatal myoclonus (Pittock et al 2010; 27; Taieb et al 2012). Other features may include long-tract signs, including paraparesis, sphincter dysfunction, and cognitive dysexecutive symptoms (Pittock et al 2010; 27; Taieb et al 2012; 04). The latter correspond to the presence of gadolinium enhancement in regions adjacent to the primarily affected brainstem.

Without treatment, symptoms progress, and relapses are common. In a study of 12 CLIPPERS patients, the annualized relapse rate was 0.5 (0.25 to 2.8) with a mean residual EDSS score of 1.9 (range 0 to 7). Relapses seemed to occur when oral prednisone dosage was titered below 20 mg per day, but patients responded well to increase of corticosteroids (Taieb et al 2012).

Diagnostic criteria are proposed, based on assessment of 35 patients with a presumed diagnosis of CLIPPERS, of whom 23 were ultimately diagnosed with this disorder (Table 1).

Table 1. Proposed Diagnostic Criteria for CLIPPERS

I. Clinical

A. Subacute pontocerebellar dysfunction, with or without other CNS symptoms such as cognitive dysfunction and myelopathy.

B. CNS symptoms responsive to corticosteroid therapy.

C. Absence of peripheral nervous system disease.

D. Lack of alternative better explanation for clinical presentation.


A. Homogenous gadolinium enhancing nodules without ring enhancement or mass effect predominating in the pons and cerebellum and measuring less than 3 mm in diameter.

B. Marked improvement in abnormal gadolinium enhancement with corticosteroid treatment.

C. Homogenous T2 signal abnormality where degree of T2 does not significantly exceed the size of the area of post-gadolinium enhancement.

D. Spinal cord lesion with similar T2 and gadolinium enhancing lesion as above.

III. Neuropathology

A. Dense lymphocytic inflammation with perivascular predominance and parenchymal diffuse infiltration; both white and grey matter could be involved.

B. T cell predominating infiltrates (CD4 > CD8) with variable macrophage components.

C. Absence of myelin loss or focal secondary myelin loss.

D. Lack of alternative better explanation for the pathological presentation.

Adapted from (Tobin et al 2017).

Prognosis and complications

Knowledge about the complications associated with CLIPPERS is limited. Complications may include: weight loss, aspiration pneumonia, dysarthria, spasticity, urological complications (residual urine, incontinence, infection), and decubitus. Complications often require a multidisciplinary approach involving dietitians, speech therapists, physiotherapists, and psychologists.

Clinical vignette

A 58-year-old woman had a 4-week history of subacute gait ataxia, dysarthria, and paresthesia of the face, hands, and feet. She had 4 relapses during the follow-up period from 2007 to 2013. Serial MRI revealed multiple small contrast-enhancing lesions progressively involving the brainstem, the mesencephalon, and to a lesser degree, the subcortical white matter.

CLIPPERS | MedLink Neurology (1)

CLIPPERS before and after high-dose intravenous methylprednisolone (MRI) (1)

T1-weighted MRI images after gadolinium in a patient with CLIPPERS demonstrates punctate and curvilinear gadolinium enhancement in the pons and cerebellum on axial (A1) and sagittal (A2) sections. (Contributed by Dr. Daniel Kondzi...

She was treated with steroids and steroid-sparing agents (eg, azathioprine) and responded clinically and radiologically but relapsed on each tapering.

CLIPPERS | MedLink Neurology (2)

CLIPPERS before and after high-dose intravenous methylprednisolone (MRI) (2)

After high-dose intravenous corticosteroids, follow-up images reveal remission of MRI changes. (Contributed by Dr. Daniel Kondziella.)

When she was diagnosed with CLIPPERS in 2012 (ie, 2 years after the first description of this disorder), she was put on maintenance immunomodulatory treatment, which was subsequently tapered to 5 mg prednisolone once daily together with azathioprine (2.5 mg/kg bodyweight). She did not experience further relapses but remained severely dysarthric and ataxic. Neuroimaging no longer showed any contrast-enhancing lesions, but there was remarkable cortical cerebral and cerebellar atrophy.

CLIPPERS | MedLink Neurology (3)

CLIPPERS before and after high-dose intravenous methylprednisolone (MRI) (3)

At 3-year follow-up, a moderate atrophy was found. (Provided by Dr. Daniel Kondziella.)

Biopsy revealed parenchymal and perivascular inflammatory infiltrates predominantly composed of CD3 + T cells and CD68 + microglia/macrophages. Repeated CSF analysis showed mild lymphocytosis, but no oligoclonal bands. 10 years after presentation, the patient is severely dysarthric, moderately cognitively impaired, and wheelchair bound and has mild involuntary choreiform movements of tongue and hands (modified Ranking scale 4).

Biological basis

Etiology and pathogenesis

The etiology of CLIPPERS is not known.

Based on MRI findings, neuropathology, and response to steroids, CLIPPERS is believed to be inflammatory. Biopsies from affected areas show a predominant perivascular infiltration of CD3+ T cells (Pittock et al 2010). Most of these are CD4+ T cells, whereas CD8+ T cells, B-cells, and plasma cells are seen in a smaller number (Pittock et al 2010; Tobin et al 2017). A few cases with more predominant perivascular B cells infiltration was described (36). CD68+ histiocytes can be present in moderate numbers, and infiltrating macrophages are also seen (27; Tobin et al 2017). A small number of neutrophils and eosinophils was found in some cases (Taieb et al 2012; Tobin et al 2017). Reactive gliosis and signs of neurodegeneration with variable axonal injury (axonal spheroids and torpedoes) are seen in some specimens (27; 04; Tobin et al 2017). This neurodegeneration can be associated with diffuse demyelination, but focal demyelinating lesions as seen in multiple sclerosis are not found (Tobin et al 2017). Demyelination may be secondary to massive inflammation and neurodegeneration. The neuropathological findings in CLIPPERS are generally correlated to the inflammatory pattern seen on MRI but are also found to a lesser extent in regions with normal MRI appearance (04).

CLIPPERS | MedLink Neurology (4)

CLIPPERS neuropathological features

Sections from brainstem of an autopsy case of CLIPPERS with lymphocytic infiltration on hematoxylin and eosin stain (left). Staining for T cells revealed a predominant CD4+ inflammation infiltrating the tissue (middle) with less C...

Pathological examination is especially important to rule out CLIPPERS mimics in cases with atypical clinical or radiological features. There are no signs of vessel wall destruction with fibroid necrosis as seen in vasculitis. Aggregates of histiocytes may resemble loose granulomas but without peripheral lymphocytic cuffing or necrosis, and granulomas generally do not occur (27; Tobin et al 2017). Moreover, no light chain restriction or other features of lymphoma are present (04).

The suspected inflammatory nature of CLIPPERS is further substantiated by a number of cases with often transient CSF-specific oligoclonal bands. A target antigen in microstructures within the perivascular space has been proposed (Pittock et al 2010). Others argue for a role of T cell-mediated cell death (Taieb et al 2012). Activation and deposition of complement and IgG was observed in a few biopsy-confirmed cases (03).

A possible allergic mediator was proposed due to the elevated serum IgE level in some patients (14). None of these potential mechanisms have been confirmed.

Because some symptoms and signs of CLIPPERS are common features of a variety of diseases, it is not uncommon for patients initially diagnosed with CLIPPERS to be subsequently diagnosed with other disorders. Lymphoma cases are the most commonly described (De Graaf et al 2013; 18; 31). Interestingly, a case of lymphoma in a patient also diagnosed with CLIPPERS was seen in the latest and largest case series (Tobin et al 2017). CLIPPERS is, thus, a potential premalignant state. The majority of cases, however, do not develop malignancy even after a prolonged follow-up (04; Tobin et al 2017).

The genetics of CLIPPERS is as yet unknown, and no familial clustering has been described thus far.


Incidence and prevalence of CLIPPERS is unknown. Since the original description in 2010 (Pittock et al 2010), more than 75 cases have been reported. Some of these have features that are atypical (large asymmetrical lesions, mass effect, etc.) and do not fulfill the proposed diagnostic criteria (Table 1) (Tobin et al 2017). The disease could be missed if MRI is done without gadolinium enhancement. With more than 75 cases worldwide over the past 8 years, the disease must be considered rare. CLIPPERS was initially thought to affect male and females equally, but in the larger case studies, the male:female ratio is approximately 3:1 (Taieb et al 2012; Tobin et al 2017).


No means of prevention are known.

Differential diagnosis

A wide range of diseases with brainstem features that mimic CLIPPERS and are provided in Table 2, together with features that may help distinguish these conditions.

Table 2. Differential Diagnosis in CLIPPERS


Distinctive features

I. Demyelinating

Multiple sclerosis

Periventricular MRI lesions, persistent oligoclonal bands, optic neuritis

Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) and NMO spectrum disease (NMOSD)

Apq4-IgG, optic neuritis, LETM

Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis

Infectious prodrome, widespread confluent contrast-enhancing lesions

Anti-MOG associated disease

Anti-MOG-IgG, NMO features

II. Inflammatory


ACE, sIL2R-Abs, perihilar node enlargement, pathology

Bickerstaff brainstem encephalitis

Anti-Gq1b, peripheral involvement, areflexia

Behçet disease

HLA-B51, genital and oral ulcers, uveitis, erythema nodosum

Langerhans-histiocytosis X

Hypothalamic involvement, lung lesions, confluent MRI lesions

Sjogren syndrome

Dry mouth and eyes, ANA, SSA/Ro, SSB/La, minor salivary gland biopsy

Systemic lupus erythemamatosis

Fever, malaise, joint pains, muscle pains, kidney disease, antiphospholipid antibody, anti-dsDNA, anticardiolipin antibody

Wegener granulomatosis

Upper airway symptoms, nose bleed, kidney disease, pulmonary nodules, ANCA, hematuria

Paraneoplastic syndrome

Weight loss, fever, whole-body PET, CSF/serum antibodies

Anti-GFAP astrocytopathy

Linear perivascular enhancement on MRI, GFAP-IgG

III. Neoplastic

Primary CNS lymphoma

Confluent enhancement on MRI, CSF monoclonal cells, mass effect

Brainstem glioma

Mass effect on MRI, no steroid response

Polyostotic sclerosing histiocytosis (Erdheim-Chester disease)

Diabetes insipidus, bony lesions, infiltrative lesions with meningeal enhancement

Hodgkin lymphoma

Painless cervical and supraclavicular lymphadenopathy, hepato- and splenomegaly, EBV+

Brainstem metastases

Primary tumor on whole body PET or CT, mass effect, edema

IV. Vascular

Primary CNS angiitis

Prominent headache, sudden exacerbation

Small vascular lesions in brainstem

Sudden onset, DWI changes

Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES)

Seizures, prominent headache, visual disturbances

V. Infectious

Viral: HSV, VZV, CMV, EBV, HHV6, HHV7, influenza A, West Nile virus, Japanese encephalitis, enterovirus, JC virus

CSF PCR finding

Bacterial: Listeria monocytogenes, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Tropheryma whippelii, Mycoplasma, Borrelia burgdorferi, Treponema pallidum, Legionella, Salmonella, Brucella, Nocardia

CSF finding, microscopy, staining and culture

Fungal: Blastomyces, Coccidioides, Histoplasma, Aspergillus, Mucor

CFS finding, microcopy, smear and culture

Parasites: neurocysticercosis, toxoplasmosis.

CSF finding, immunosuppression

VI: Metabolic

Pontine myelinolysis

Chronic hyponatremia, alcohol abuse

Lacking a specific biomarker in CLIPPERS, there is a potential risk of overdiagnosis. This is suggested by the numerous case descriptions of CLIPPERS mimics. Several diseases can present with punctate or curvilinear MRI changes (29), and a number of red flags were proposed. Careful examination for alternative causes should be performed (37). Red flags include (1) no response to corticosteroids, (2) acute onset or progression, (3) lack of brainstem-prominent features, (4) signs of systemic disease, (5) peripheral nervous system involvement, (6) normal brain MRI, (7) significant asymmetrical lesions, and (8) severe edema or mass effect on MRI.

Common mimics of CLIPPERS are: CNS lymphoma, CNS vasculitis, multiple sclerosis, and neurosarcoidosis. Most of these diagnoses may be distinguished based on MRI findings. In CLIPPERS, the punctate lesions are usually small (less than 3 mm) and not confluent, and the T2 hyperintensity does not significantly exceed the gadolinium enhancement. No ring enhancement is seen. Careful repeated examination of CNS cell components with cytology and flow cytometry are helpful in differentiating from lymphoma. Brain biopsy can be needed in cases that have atypical features.

Paraneoplastic disorders, intraparenchymal brainstem metastases, and primary brainstem gliomas should also be considered (13). The latter often have mass effect or significant edema on T2-weighted imaging.

Behçet disease often has brainstem features. Absence of oral and genital ulcers and lack of uveitis and erythema nodosum as well as negative HLA-B51 are helpful for distinction (01).

Bickerstaff brainstem encephalitis is part of the of the spectrum of Miller-Fisher syndrome. Besides ataxia, it may present with peripheral involvement (areflexia); most cases (80%) are associated with anti-Gq1b antibodies. Imaging is often normal or shows nonenhancing brainstem T2 hyperintensities (26).

Langerhans histiocytosis X involves the hypothalamus, causes lung lesions, and has more confluent lesions on MRI.

Polyostotic sclerosing histiocytosis (Erdheim-Chester disease) includes bony lesions, diabetes insipidus, and infiltrative lesions with meningeal involvement on MRI (16).

Infectious causes of rhombencephalitis, such as listeria, enterovirus 70, herpes viruses, and tuberculosis, should also be considered (13). Most of these can be excluded by careful CSF examination, including virus PCR, fungal smear, and bacterial and fungal culture.

Anti-GFAP astrocytopathy has been described as an autoimmune meningoencephalitis. Patients often have prominent headache, papillitis, and medullopathy (10). MRI shows supratentorial linear perivascular enhancement on MRI and anti-GFAP IgG in serum/CSF.

A proposed diagnostic workup to help differentiate CLIPPERS from alternative causes is provided in Table 2.

Diagnostic workup

Table 3. Diagnostic Workup in CLIPPERS

I. Blood

Blood count
Systemic antibodies: ANA, ENA, ANCA, Anti-dsDNA, RF, antiphospholipid antibodies
Paraneoplastic antibodies
ACE, sIL2R-Abs
Monoclonal protein and cryoglobulin
HIV test
Serology for Lyme disease, syphilis
Tuberculosis testing
Hepatitis B and C screening
Serum LDH
Anti-GFAP, anti-MOG and anti-Gq1b IgG
Serum IgE


Cell count, protein, and glucose
OCBs and IgG index
Cytology and flow cytometry
Paraneoplastic antibodies
Viral examination (HSV, VZV, EBV, CMV, JCV)
Bacterial stain and culture
Fungal smear and culture

III. Imaging

Contrast-enhanced MRI of brain and spinal cord
Intracranial vascular imaging (CT, MRI)
Whole-body PET-CT or CT of thorax and abdomen

IV. Pathology

Biopsy of abnormalities from PET-CT or CT
Consider brain biopsy in patients with atypical features

A careful medical history should be obtained, including signs of systemic abnormalities (uveitis, sicca syndrome, arthritis, fever) and a history of oral or genial ulcers.

Initial investigation should be MRI of the brain, and in cases with medullopathy also spinal cord. MRI should be gadolinium-enhanced with imaging of vasculature. The MRI hallmark of CLIPPERS is punctate or curvilinear gadolinium enhancement, predominating in the pons and with possible involvement of adjacent regions of the cerebellar peduncles, cerebellum, medulla oblongata, and mesencephalon.

CLIPPERS | MedLink Neurology (5)

CLIPPERS before and after high-dose intravenous methylprednisolone (MRI) (1)

T1-weighted MRI images after gadolinium in a patient with CLIPPERS demonstrates punctate and curvilinear gadolinium enhancement in the pons and cerebellum on axial (A1) and sagittal (A2) sections. (Contributed by Dr. Daniel Kondzi...

Gadolinium enhancement can extend into the cervical and less commonly thoracic medulla.

CLIPPERS | MedLink Neurology (6)

CLIPPERS before and after high-dose intravenous methylprednisolone (MRI) (2)

After high-dose intravenous corticosteroids, follow-up images reveal remission of MRI changes. (Contributed by Dr. Daniel Kondziella.)

Supratentorial involvement of the basal ganglia and subcortical white matter and cortical hemispheres can be seen (Tobin et al 2017). High-field MRI may be helpful in demonstrating lesions in regions with normal-appearing brain matter (04). Punctate lesions are usually small (less than 3 mm) and tend to be smaller when found in adjacent regions (Pittock et al 2010). Larger confluent lesions or asymmetrical lesions were described but are not common and should prompt a careful examination for alternative causes. Slight hyperintensities are seen on T2, but importantly these do not typically exceed the size of gadolinium enhancement (Pittock et al 2010; Tobin et al 2017). Lesions with severe edema or mass effect are not seen and should prompt consideration of malignancies, such as metastases or glioma.

Use of other MRI sequences, such as SWI or PWI, was suggested, but their utility is not yet confirmed (23). Evaluation of available DWI imaging in 22 patients with CLIPPERS found only 1 patient with minor DWI high signal (Tobin et al 2017).

Cerebral angiogram (MRI or CT angiogram) is important to help exclude cerebral vasculitis. Angiograms are normal in CLIPPERS.

An important feature of CLIPPERS is the prompt clinical and radiological remission with corticosteroid treatment. Clinical remission follows the radiological remission (Pittock et al 2010). If gadolinium enhancement shows no remission after treatment, alternative diagnoses should be considered (Tobin et al 2017).

Follow-up MRIs are important in cases of relapse. Atrophy of pons and cerebellum is sometimes seen with prolonged follow-up.

CLIPPERS | MedLink Neurology (7)

CLIPPERS before and after high-dose intravenous methylprednisolone (MRI) (3)

At 3-year follow-up, a moderate atrophy was found. (Provided by Dr. Daniel Kondziella.)

No blood or CSF biomarker is available for CLIPPERS. Extensive laboratory testing is needed to help distinguish CLIPPERS from other causes. A suggestive panel of tests is outlined in Table 3. These include complete blood count, tests for systemic and paraneoplastic antibodies, hepatitis and HIV screening, and tests for specific inflammatory conditions (anti-MOG, Anti-GFAP and Anti-Gq1b). Elevated serum IgE was found in some cases (27). Similarly, ANA, ds-DNA, and SSA/SSB were found in some cases but without clinical correlation to a specific syndrome (Pittock et al 2010; 27). The significance of these is unknown.

CSF analysis is important in all patients with suspected CLIPPERS. The most common pathological feature seen is a mild elevation of protein (44 to 114 mg/dl). Some cases have a slightly elevated lymphocytic pleocytosis (9 to 114 cells ul/L), but a marked pleocytosis should raise concern for an alternative cause. Oligoclonal bands are occasionally seen and are often transient (Taieb et al 2012; 29). CSF analysis is important for the exclusion of infection (Table 3), and cytology and flow cytometry is recommended as CNS lymphoma may mimic CLIPPERS.

Whole-body PET-CT or CT of thorax and abdomen can help exclude underlying malignancy with intracerebral metastases or paraneoplastic conditions but may also be helpful in diagnosing systemic inflammation in neurosarcoidosis or rheumatological disorders. Biopsy of changes found on whole-body imaging is recommended.

Brain biopsy in CLIPPERS remains somewhat controversial. Reports of lymphoma mimicking CLIPPERS have led some to recommend brain biopsy in all patients suspected (17). Pathology findings are, however, not specific for CLIPPERS and should be used to rule out other causes. Even though brain biopsy in regions typically affected by CLIPPERS is complicated (eloquent areas: brainstem, cerebellum, and spinal cord), it should be considered in patients with atypical findings. Typical cases of CLIPPERS can be diagnosed to a probable level without brain biopsy (Table 1) (Tobin et al 2017).


Treatment of CLIPPERS is based on case series and individual case reports. No randomized controlled trials are currently available due to the rarity of the conditions. Treatment should be started early (Tobin et al 2017).

Initial treatment. High-dose intravenous corticosteroid (1 g intravenous methylprednisolone daily) is recommended for 3 to 5 days (Taieb et al 2012; 37; Tobin et al 2017). In some cases, treatment was expanded to 10 days when no clinical effect was seen. Clinical remission is usually seen within days.

Chronic treatment. Patients should be continued on oral corticosteroid (1 mg/kg prednisone) with a slow taper (eg, 5 mg per week to 20 mg) (Tobin et al 2017). Relapse is common while tapering corticosteroids but usually occurs at doses less than 20 mg daily (Taieb et al 2012). Addition of a steroid-sparing agent should be considered when starting oral corticosteroids (37). These are often not sufficient, however, in monotherapy, and a continuous oral corticosteroid treatment is often necessary (09).

Steroid-sparing agents in doses higher than the ones used for rheumatological conditions are often needed (Tobin et al 2017). Used agents include azathioprine (2.5 mg/kg/day), methotrexate (target dose 22.5 mg weekly), and mycophenolate mofetil (2 g per day divided in individual doses) (37).

Treatment with prednisone above 20 mg/day should be maintained until the steroid-sparing agent is effective. Relapse during or after cessation of immunotherapy should be treated with repeated high-dose intravenous corticosteroid (37).

Efficacy of anti-CD20 treatment with rituximab was described in some cases, even though only a limited number of B cells were seen in the lesions (Taieb et al 2012; 06). This is in line with increasing evidence that B cells are important regulators of T cell function. Intravenous immunoglobulins appear ineffective (11). Hydroxychloroquine was reported effective in one case and ineffective in others (Pittock et al 2010; 32). Antituberculous therapy was reported in one case, but efficacy was not confirmed (20). Chronic treatment with leflunomide was effective in one case (08).

No data on the length of treatment are available. Some recommend treatment for 12 months before withdrawing immunotherapy (37). MRI follow-up should be performed after treatment cessation as MRI findings may precede clinical symptoms. Further studies are needed to determine the most efficient chronic treatment.

Cautions and side effects. With prolonged high-dose corticosteroid treatment, additional prophylactic agents, including PCP prophylaxis, calcium with vitamin D, and proton pump inhibitors, are needed. Bone densitometry testing is recommended. Treatment with a bisphosphonate may be necessary if osteoporosis is present or occurs during treatment. Monitoring for hyperglycemia is recommended. Abrupt discontinuation of steroids should be avoided due to the risks of Addison crisis.

Intravenous methylprednisolone often causes psychosis, hyperglycemia, and insomnia. Additional side effects seen more commonly with long-term oral prednisone include infection, osteoporosis, avascular necrosis of the hip, Cushingoid appearance, skin thinning and easy bruising, depression, cataracts, hypertension, weight gain, and edema.

Blood monitoring is necessary for patients taking steroid-sparing immunosuppressants. Laboratory testing for complete blood count, renal function, and liver function should be performed prior to the initiation of treatment and then once weekly for 1 month, twice weekly for 1 month, and monthly thereafter for the duration of treatment with methotrexate or azathioprine.

With methotrexate treatment, folic acid supplementation is needed. Methotrexate may result in myelosuppression, nephrotoxicity, liver damage, pulmonary fibrosis, toxic epidermal necrolysis, and increased risk of infection.

Mycophenolate mofetil is associated with infection, increased risk of malignancy (lymphoma, skin cancers, and others), diarrhea, hypertension, hepatitis, myelosuppression, and renal failure. Mycophenolate mofetil use may be limited by high cost.

Prior to starting azathioprine, testing thiopurine-S-methyltransferase (TPMT) activity is necessary, as patients with low enzyme activity are at increased risk of toxicity from the drug. Azathioprine is associated with infection, malignancy (lymphoma, skin cancers, and others), nausea, macrocytic anemia, skin rash, hypersensitivity reaction, pancreatitis, and elevated liver function tests.

Rituximab may cause infusion reactions and increases the risk of infection (including progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy), may increase the risk of hematological malignancy, and may cause hypotension and gastrointestinal perforations. With rituximab, some recommend periodic monitoring of the CD19 count every 6 to 9 months and consider another round of rituximab only if CD19 cells have been replenished or clinical deterioration occurs whereas others base this decision on clinical factors alone.

Corticosteroids and steroid-sparing immunosuppressants are associated with a wide range of side effects.

Side effects associated with cyclophosphamide include infection, increased risk of malignancy (lymphoma, skin neoplasms, and others), nausea and vomiting, hemorrhagic cystitis, alopecia, and infertility.


CLIPPERS is a progressive brainstem syndrome with an often-dramatic response to corticosteroids. The majority of patients have some residual disability after treated relapses (EDSS of 1.9) (Taieb et al 2012). Relapses are common, especially with corticosteroid doses less than 20 mg/day. In a study of 12 patients, the annualized relapse rate was 0.5 (0.25 to 2.8 without long-tern corticosteroid treatment) (Taieb et al 2012). Some patients progress even with aggressive immunotherapy (Tobin et al 2017). Even after multiple attacks, most patients had only moderate disability and remained ambulatory at last follow-up (Median EDSS of 3) (Taieb et al 2012). In a retrospective study of 23 CLIPPERS patients with a median follow-up of 44 months, the median mRS was 1 (Tobin et al 2017). Five patients were dead at follow-up (median 27 months from symptom onset) due to sepsis (n=2), systemic B cell lymphoma (n=1), progressive neurologic disease (n=1), and uncertain cause (n=1).

Special considerations


No information is available concerning pregnancy in patients with CLIPPERS. Steroid-sparing agents can be teratogenic and are not recommended.


No information regarding anesthesia in patients with CLIPPERS is available.

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