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Respiratory syncytial virus infections in infants and children with congenital heart disease: update on the evidence of prevention with palivizumab

Resch, Bernharda,b; Michel-Behnke, Inac

Current Opinion in Cardiology: March 2013 - Volume 28 - Issue 2 - p 85–91
doi: 10.1097/HCO.0b013e32835dce2f
PEDIATRICS: Edited by Victoria L. Vetter

Purpose of review Lower respiratory tract infections multiply morbidity and mortality within patients with significant congenital heart disease (CHD). For respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), one of the most important pathogens, immunoprophylaxis with palivizumab has successfully been introduced. The question is which patients will benefit most from this costly preventive treatment.

Recent findings The era after the introduction of palivizumab has revealed a steep decrease in mortality. The markers of success – hospital stays, admission to the intensive care unit, days on mechanical ventilation, and death – consistently favor immunoprophylaxis. The key point of treatment success remains in all cases a careful patient selection, adherence to a time limit of 30 days between the injections and early use after cardiac surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass, as well as avoidance of nosocomial-acquired infections. Preventive therapy with palivizumab in patients with CHD has been investigated in terms of operating efficiency – with the lowest costs per quality-adjusted life years compared with preterm infants with or without bronchopulmonary dysplasia.

Summary The burden of RSV disease will decline, once a vaccine is available. Meanwhile, immunoprophylaxis with palivizumab is a useful tool for high-risk patients to reduce comorbidity and fatal outcome. Pharmacoeconomic considerations measuring quality-adjusted life years indicate important information about cost-effectiveness.

aResearch Unit for Neonatal Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology

bDivision of Neonatology, Department of Pediatrics, Medical University of Graz, Graz

cDivision of Pediatric Cardiology, Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria

Correspondence to University Professor Dr Bernhard Resch, Research Unit for Neonatal Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology, Division of Neonatology, Department of Paediatrics, Medical University of Graz, Auenbruggerplatz 34/2, 8036 Graz, Austria. Tel: +43 316 385 81134; fax: +43 316 385 12678; e-mail:

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.