To identify the cause of early fatality and to delineate the clinical findings on admission associated with this early fatality, a retrospective study of 101 children with bacterial meningitis was performed in southern Taiwan. Risk factors for early fatality are compared between patients with and without acute death in the first 3 days after admission. The overall patient fatality is 27%. Eighty-five percent of them (23 patients) occur at an average of 16.5 hours after admission despite proper antibiotic treatment. The causes of early death are predominantly hemodynamic in 14 patients (61%) and predominantly neurologic in nine (39%). Analysis of clinical parameters available on admission indicated a significant risk of early death in patients who have tachycardia, tachypnea, hypothermia, poor skin perfusion, metabolic acidosis, leukopenia, thrombocytopenia, low cerebrospinal fluid leukocyte count, and high cerebrospinal fluid lactate level. Multivariate analysis demonstrates that metabolic acidosis, poor skin perfusion, and low cerebrospinal fluid leukocyte count are independently and significantly associated with early fatality. In conclusion, two thirds of early fatalities in children with bacterial meningitis are the result of septic shock. Close surveillance for signs of septic shock, as well as of brain herniation should be continued, especially within 3 days after antibiotic treatment.
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