Lupus cerebritis is an inflammatory neurological condition secondary to systemic lupus erythematosus and is characterized by several neuropsychiatric manifestations. The diagnosis of lupus cerebritis can be challenging as there are no specific diagnostic tests. Therefore, the work up depends upon excluding other conditions with identical signs and symptoms, besides, confirming that the patient has systemic lupus erythematosus.
Lupus cerebritis (LC) is a serious complication associated with the connective tissue disorder, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Initial neuropsychiatric manifestations can be non-specific such as anxiety, depression, visual disturbances, behavioral changes, psychosis, stroke  , lethargy, dementia and even coma.
Psychiatric disorders in lupus cerebritis may result from thromboembolic events, electrolyte imbalance, opportunistic infections causing meningitis or encephalitis or may be due to prolonged steroid medication (steroid psychosis). Other neurological manifestations include parkinsonism with chorea and athetosis which is seen in approximately 4% patients , pseudotumor cerebri, and sinus thrombosis. Thromboembolic strokes occur in a small percentage of patients due to the involvement of blood vessels of all sizes.
Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome can present dramatically in patients on immunosuppressive medications and renal disease with hypertension  and typically resolves within a month after onset. All types of seizures have been reported in LC although partial and secondary general seizures are more common. Electrolyte imbalance and opportunistic intracranial infections can cause seizures while high dose steroid treatment can result in status epilepticus.
Transient cranial neuropathies are rare but have been reported   while sensory peripheral neuropathy, mononeuritis multiplex, and acute demyelinating polyneuropathy are seen quite often. Although spinal cord is uncommonly involved, sudden onset spinal artery thrombosis, progressive demyelination and transverse myelitis have been reported.
Diagnosis of lupus cerebritis can be challenging as the clinical features are non-specific, resemble other psychiatric and neurological disorders and there is no particular laboratory or imaging study available to confirm the condition. The disorder should be suspected in young, female patients presenting with unexplained neuropsychiatric signs and symptoms. Clinical suspicion, history, examination findings along with serological detection of lupus antibodies and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis are required to make a provisional diagnosis.
A thorough neurological examination may reveal movement disorders, mononeuropathy or cranial nerve involvement, features of intracranial thromboembolism like stroke and even spinal cord infarction. A complete blood count will show hemolytic anemia with decreased platelets and neutropenia. Inflammatory markers like erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein are elevated. Serological tests for lupus antibodies include antinuclear antibodies (ANA), antiphospholipid antibodies, and anticardiolipin antibodies will be positive in patients with LC . Assessment of serum electrolytes is essential in patients presenting with confusion or coma to exclude electrolyte imbalance as the underlying etiology. CSF finding of an immunological SLE marker is more specific for LC compared to a serum marker  with lymphocytotoxic antibodies being seen in a majority of patients with LC . Other CSF findings in these patients are lymphocytosis with an elevated cell count, high levels of proteins , interleukin-6 and interferon alfa. With severe central nervous system involvement, CSF levels of nitric oxide are found to be elevated and can help to monitor LC progression .
An electroencephalogram is likely to be abnormal in more than 50% of the patients.
Computed tomography (CT) scan features can vary from normal to cerebral atrophy, cerebral infarction, intracranial hemorrhage, to intracranial abscesses. In patients with chronic lupus cerebritis, CT scan may show calcifications. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a more sensitive imaging study to observe neurological features of LC . Other imaging studies such as magnetic resonance spectroscopy, diffusion and perfusion weighted imaging, and magnetization transfer imaging are being studied currently to enable rapid confirmatory diagnosis of LC .
Biopsy of the brain is indicated if imaging studies are unable to differentiate between LC and intracranial lesions due to other etiologies. On histology, findings in lupus cerebritis are small vessel vasculitis with or without inflammatory cells and features of embolic infarction.