BACKGROUND: Over the years 2009-2013, we conducted a prospective study within a network established by the Italian Society of Pediatrics to describe the in-hospital management of children hospitalized for acute bacterial meningitis in 19 Italian hospitals with pediatric wards.
METHODS: Hospital adherence to the study was voluntary; data were derived from clinical records. Information included demographic data, dates of onset of first symptoms, hospitalization and discharge; diagnostic evaluation; etiology; antimicrobial treatment; treatment with dexamethasone; in-hospital complications; neurological sequelae and status at hospital discharge. Characteristics of in-hospital management of patients were described by causative agent.
RESULTS: Eighty-five patients were identified; 49.4% had received an antimicrobial treatment prior to admission. Forty percent of patients were transferred from other Centers; the indication to seek for hospital care was given by the primary care pediatrician in 80% of other children. Etiological agent was confirmed in 65.9% of cases; the most common infectious organism was Neisseria meningitidis (34.1%), followed by Streptococcus pneumoniae (20%). Patients with pneumococcal meningitis had a significant longer interval between onset of first symptoms and hospital admission. Median interval between the physician suspicion of meningitis and in-hospital first antimicrobial dose was 1 hour (interquartile range [IQR]: 1-2 hours). Corticosteroids were given to 63.5% of cases independently of etiology; 63.0% of treated patients received dexamethasone within 1 hour of antibiotic treatment, and 41.2% were treated for ≤4 days. Twenty-nine patients reported at least one in-hospital complication (34.1%). Six patients had neurological sequelae at discharge (7.1%). No deaths were observed.
CONCLUSIONS: We observed a rate of meningitis sequelae at discharge similar to that reported by other western countries. Timely assistance and early treatment could have contributed to the favorable outcome that was observed in the majority of cases. Adherence to recommendation for corticosteroid adjunctive therapy seems suboptimal, and should be investigated in further studies. Most meningitis cases were due to N. meningitidis and S. pneumoniae. Reaching and maintaining adequate vaccination coverage against pneumococcal and meningococcal invasive infections remains a priority to prevent bacterial meningitis cases.
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