Reye's Syndrome

  • Medical Author:
    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    Dr. Perlstein received his Medical Degree from the University of Cincinnati and then completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at The New York Hospital, Cornell medical Center in New York City. After serving an additional year as Chief Pediatric Resident, he worked as a private practitioner and then was appointed Director of Ambulatory Pediatrics at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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How do health-care professionals diagnose Reye's syndrome?

The diagnosis of Reye's syndrome is made clinically. That is, it is considered in any child who presents with unexplained brain dysfunction (encephalopathy), vomiting, and liver dysfunction. A history of a recent viral infection and aspirin use certainly supports the diagnosis. In general, laboratory studies that reveal an increase in liver enzymes and ammonia levels and marked decreases in serum glucose (hypoglycemia) are supportive of the diagnosis. However, it should be noted that other metabolic disorders can present with similar symptoms.

What is the treatment for Reye's syndrome?

Unfortunately, there is no absolutely effective treatment for Reye's syndrome. Primarily, the treatment is aimed at decreasing the effects of the metabolic dysfunction. Patients with Reye's syndrome are admitted to an intensive-care unit where they can be managed by doctors who specialize in the care of critically ill children. In this setting, they can be monitored for a worsening neurologic and metabolic condition. The primary goal is to manage electrolyte imbalances and brain swelling. It is difficult to predict which patients will have a progressive illness, however some recommend using medications aimed at lowering the serum ammonia level (ammonia is known be one cause of increased brain swelling). In addition, in some cases of progressive and resistant Reye's syndrome, hemodialysis has also been used to remove toxins believed to be partly responsible for the brain swelling.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/28/2016

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