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Long-term Sequelae of Childhood Bacterial Meningitis: An Underappreciated Problem

Chandran, Aruna MD, MPH*; Herbert, Hadley MD*; Misurski, Derek PhD, RPH; Santosham, Mathuram MD, MPH*

The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal: January 2011 - Volume 30 - Issue 1 - p 3-6
doi: 10.1097/INF.0b013e3181ef25f7
Original Studies

Background: Numerous sequelae have been noted in survivors of bacterial meningitis; however, few studies document sequelae for several years following a childhood episode of bacterial meningitis. In addition, studies generally focus on the more commonly found sequelae. To review the known information and highlight this gap, this article presents a comprehensive literature review of the long-term (≥5 years of follow-up) sequelae of childhood bacterial meningitis.

Methods: A systematic literature search was conducted between December 2009 and February 2010. English-language articles published between January 1970 and January 2010 were selected for screening. Articles were included if the subjects were between the ages of 1 month and <18 years at the time of diagnoses of meningitis.

Results: A total of 1433 children who were survivors of childhood bacterial meningitis were evaluated for sequelae after the time of discharge. Of these children, 705 (49.2%) were reported to have 1 or more long-term sequelae. A majority of reported sequelae were behavioral and/or intellectual disorders (n = 455, 45.0%). Hearing changes accounted for 6.7% (n = 68) of sequelae and gross neurologic deficits accounted for 14.3% (n = 145).

Discussion: A majority of childhood bacterial meningitis survivors with long-term sequelae that are documented in the literature have academic and behavioral limitations. While neurologic deficits may resolve over time, subtle behavioral deficits may not be appreciated initially and may continue to affect survivors for many years. Further studies are needed to quantify the true societal and economic burden of long-term sequelae as well as fully understand the breadth of types of sequelae that survivors experience.


From the *Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD; and †GlaxoSmithKline, Global health Outcomes Vaccines, Philadelphia, PA.

Accepted for publication June 21, 2010.

Supported by GlaxoSmithKline.

Address for correspondence: Aruna Chandran, MD, MPH, 615 N, Wolfe St, Suite E-8622, Baltimore, MD 21205. E-mail:

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© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.