Alpers' disease

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Alpers' disease
ICD-10 G31.8
ICD-9 330.8
OMIM 203700
DiseasesDB 29298
MeSH D002549

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Alpers' disease, also called Alpers' syndrome,[1] progressive neuronal degeneration of childhood,[1] progressive sclerosing poliodystrophy, and progressive infantile poliodystrophy, is a progressive degenerative disease of the central nervous system that occurs in infants and children. It is an autosomal recessive disorder that is sometimes seen in siblings.


First signs of the disease, which include intractable seizures and failure to meet meaningful developmental milestones, usually occur in infancy, after the first year of life, but sometimes as late as the fifth year. Primary symptoms of the disease are developmental delay, progressive mental retardation, hypotonia (low muscle tone), spasticity (stiffness of the limbs) possibly leading to quadriplegia, and progressive dementia. Seizures may include epilepsia partialis continua, a type of seizure that consists of repeated myoclonic (muscle) jerks. Optic atrophy may also occur, often leading to blindness. Deafness may also occur. And, although physical signs of chronic liver dysfunction may not be present, many patients suffer liver impairment leading to liver failure. While some researchers believe that Alpers' disease is caused by an underlying metabolic defect, no consistent defect has been identified. Pathologically, there is status spongiosus of the cerebral grey matter.


There is no cure for Alpers' disease and, currently, no way to slow its progression. Treatment is symptomatic and supportive. Anticonvulsants may be used to treat the seizures. However, caution should be used when selecting valproate as therapy since it may increase the risk of liver failure. Physical therapy may help to relieve spasticity and maintain or increase muscle tone.


The prognosis for individuals with Alpers' disease is poor. Those with the disease usually die within their first decade of life. Liver failure is usually the cause of death, although cardiorespiratory failure may also occur.


It is named for Bernard Jacob Alpers.[2][3][4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Naudé, J te Water, C M Verity, R G Will, G Devereux, and L Stellitano. (2004.) "Is variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in young children misdiagnosed as Alpers’ syndrome? An analysis of a national surveillance study" Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, 2004;75:910-913. (Fee for full text.) Retrieved on 2007-09-27.
  2. Bernard Jacob Alpers at Who Named It
  3. Alpers' disease at Who Named It
  4. B. J. Alpers. Diffuse progressive degeneration of the grey matter of the cerebrum. Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, Chicago, 1931, 25: 469-505.


"Alpers' Disease Information Page". (Website). National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, U.S. National Institutes of Health.

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