Adult Reye syndrome

Adult Reye Syndrome


It is also called as Reye syndrome.

Abbreviation: RE.

ICD-9: 331.81.

An acquired encephalopathy of young children that follows an acute febrile illness, usually influenza or varicella infection; characterized by recurrent vomiting, agitation, and lethargy, which may lead to coma with intracranial hypertension. Ammonia and serum transaminases are elevated. Death may result from edema of the brain and resulting cerebral herniation.

Adult Reye syndrome

Reye's syndrome is a disorder that primarily affects the liver and brain. It attacks the nervous system very quickly and can cause death. It occurs primarily among children who are recovering from a viral infection, such as chicken pox or the flu. It usually develops a week after the onset of the viral illness but can also occur a few days after onset. Liver-related complications of Reye syndrome include fatty deposits, abnormal liver function tests, and poor blood clotting and bleeding caused by liver failure.

Reye syndrome occurs most commonly in children between the ages of 4 and 12, although it can occur at any age. It usually develops about a week after common viral infections such as influenza or chickenpox. Reye syndrome can also develop after an ordinary upper respiratory infection such as a cold. The precise reason is unknown, but using aspirin to treat a viral illness or infection may trigger the condition in children.


Symptoms include:


  • Lethargy.

  • Seizures.

  • Loss of consciousness.

  • Nausea and vomiting.

  • Double vision.

  • Hearing loss.

  • Speech difficulties.

  • Weakness in the arms or legs.

  • Paralysis.

Causes and Risk Factors:

The exact cause of Reye's syndrome is unknown, although several factors may play a role in its development. Reye's syndrome seems to be triggered by using aspirin to treat a viral illness or infection — particularly flu (influenza) and chickenpox. Aspirin has been linked with Reye's syndrome, so use caution when giving aspirin to children or teenagers. Though aspirin is approved for use in children older than age 2, children and teenagers recovering from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms should never take aspirin. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns.

Risk factors include:

  • Using aspirin to treat a viral infection, such as flu, chickenpox, or an upper respiratory infection.

  • Having an underlying fatty acid oxidation disorder.

  • Exposure to certain toxins such as insecticides, herbicides, and paint thinner also may contribute to Reye's syndrome.


Reye's syndrome may be suspected in a child who begins vomiting three to six days after a viral illness, followed by an alteration in consciousness. Diagnosis of Reye's syndrome is often based on the patient's pattern of illness. Confirmation of this diagnosis can be made with a blood test. The test is designed to look for certain liver enzymes. Enzymes are chemicals in the body that change the rate at which reactions take place in cells. When an organ is diseased, the number of enzymes present may increase dramatically. The blood test for Reye's syndrome involves measuring changes in liver enzymes.

Laboratory tests to diagnose Reye syndrome includes:

    Blood chemistry tests.

  • Head CT or head MRI scan.

  • Liver function tests.

  • Liver biopsy.

  • Serum ammonia test.

  • Spinal tap.


Treatment in the early stages includes intravenous sugar to return levels to normal and plasma transfusion to restore normal clotting time. Intracranial pressure is monitored, and if elevated, is treated with intravenous mannitol and hyperventilation to constrict the blood vessels in the brain. If the pressure remains high, barbiturates may be used.

Severe cases may be treated in the intensive care unit. The hospital staff will closely monitor your child's blood pressure and other vital signs.

Specific treatment may include:

Intravenous fluids: Your child may be fed through an intravenous (IV) line. Glucose and an electrolyte solution containing sodium, potassium and chloride may be given through the IV, too.

Diuretics: These medications may be used to increase fluid loss through urination.

Corticosteroids: These medications may be used to reduce swelling in the brain.

Insulin: Small amounts of insulin may be used to increase sugar metabolism.

The recovery of the patient depends on how soon the illness is discovered. Some people will recover completely and some people will die. Death usually occurs due severity of the swelling of the brain.

If a person recovers from Reye's syndrome, they may have slight motor disabilities, learning disabilities or more extreme brain disabilities.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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