BACKGROUND: Acute central nervous system (ACNS) infections such as meningitis, encephalitis and cerebellitis still cause morbidity and mortality among children. The aim of this study was to verify whether neuropsychological impairment may develop in ACNS survivors.
METHODS: The study included pediatric patients affected by ACNS disorders, aged 3-16 years admitted to the Bambino Gesù Children Hospital, Rome from June 2013 till June 2015. The patients and their parents underwent a psychological interview and neuropsychological tests during the first week of hospital admission and 1 year after, during a follow-up control. Wilcoxon signed rank tests for paired data were conducted to verify if the results were statistically importance. Patients underwent a cognitive profile test through the Leiter international performance scale - revised, motor skills evaluation through the test of visual-motor integration and a psychopathological evaluation by the child behavior checklist. The K-SADS-PL test was administered in children 6-11 years old to check psychopathological disorders.
RESULTS: Forty-four patients were included in the study. At the 1 year follow-up, "anxiety problems" (dependency, fears, worries, nervousness) developed in 47% of patients, "somatic problems" (aches, headaches, nausea, vomiting) in 29% and "affective problems" (crying, self-harming, worthlessness, guilt, tiredness, sadness) in 29%. Visual perception was statistically increased at the 1 year follow-up in our patient cohort (p = 0.0297), mainly among the meningitides group (p = 0.0189). Motor-coordination also increased at the follow-up check in the study participants (p = 0.0076), especially in the group affected by cerebellitis (p = 0.0302).
CONCLUSIONS: Neuropsychological disorders are often difficult to recognize in the early stage. They must, however, be promptly identified through specific and standardized neuropsychological examinations in order to avoid long term sequelae in adulthood.