Cardon Children’s Medical Center has established a leading-edge clinic that is only the second of its kind in the U.S. to treat and conduct research into a family of acute-onset neuropsychiatric disorders that historically have been misdiagnosed or undiagnosed in children.

The Children’s Postinfectious Autoimmune Encephalopathy (CPAE) Center of Excellence, which will open May 30, is an expansion of the partnership involving Banner Children’s services and the University of Arizona Steele Children’s Research Center. Along with Diamond Children’s Medical Center in Tucson, the CPAE Center will implement a model of clinical care, teaching and research to treat and potentially cure a spectrum of postinfectious autoimmune encephalopathies. This spectrum of diseases includes such disorders as Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS), Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated With Strep (PANDAS) and Sydenham’s chorea.

Children’s postinfectious autoimmune encephalopathies, like other autoimmune disorders, are on the rise in children in the Western world. These diseases occur when a child’s immune system, while fighting an infection, mistakenly targets or disrupts a part of the child’s own body. In CPAE, the child’s immune system attacks the brain, causing a range of neuropsychiatric symptoms.

“We’re excited to now have a world-renowned Center of Excellence and two outstanding clinics in Arizona, which were formulated in collaboration with the National Institute of Health to diagnose, treat and research disorders like PANS/PANDAS,” said Paul Ryan, founder of the Phoenix-based PACE Foundation that spearheaded the effort to create the center. The national nonprofit organization is dedicated to improving the diagnosis, treatment and quality of life of individuals with postinfectious autoimmune encephalopathies.

Symptoms typically occur suddenly — sometimes overnight — and can include:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Restrictive eating
  • Tics (motor and phonic)
  • Severe anxiety
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Headaches
  • Depression and mood changes
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Changes in handwriting
  • Separation anxiety
  • Poor academic performance
  • Frequent urination
  • Hallucinations
  • Sensory sensitivities

Along with treating patients, the Cardon Children’s medical team will conduct research in conjunction with the Steele Center. CPAE research includes a national study headed by Banner University Medical and the University of Arizona (in cooperation with the National Institute of Mental Health), focusing on understanding the impact of various treatment protocols.

“Banner is absolutely committed to making sure we use our resources and geographical reach to ensure children with these disorders are provided with the very best treatment available in the country,” said Kathy Bollinger, President of the Banner – University Medicine Division.

Cardon Children’s is expected to treat about 300 cases each year through the center. Patients from as far as Thailand and several states across the U.S. have received treatment through the Tucson center since it opened in 2016.

Cardon Children’s Medical Center provides pediatric care for children, from newborns to teens. Services include immediate access to Level I trauma services and emergency care, a Level III neonatal intensive care unit, general pediatrics, surgical and rehabilitation services, hematology/oncology, urology, gastroenterology, neurology and outpatient services. For more information, visit