February 1991

Factors Affecting Outcome in Meningococcal Infections

Author Affiliations

From the Division of General Pediatrics, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia. Dr Tesoro is now in private practice in Princeton, NJ.

Am J Dis Child. 1991;145(2):218-220. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1991.02160020112029

• A prognostic score for evaluating meningococcal infections in patients consists of the following five features that indicate a poor prognosis: onset of petechiae within 12 hours of presentation; shock; normal or low peripheral leukocyte count; normal or low erythrocyte sedimentation rate; and absence of meningitis. Based on our experience and some published data, we suspected that the score may no longer be reliable. We reviewed the charts of 73 children with meningococcal infection from December 19,1979 to December 19,1987 and applied the prognostic score mentioned previously. Our findings indicate that although a low score is generally associated with a good outcome, a higher score is less predictive of poor outcome than previously suggested. A rash with petechiae or purpura, the presence of shock, and a normal or low peripheral leukocyte count continue to be predictors of poor outcome. Erythrocyte sedimentation rate was not evaluated owing to a limited amount of data. The absence of meningitis did not correlate with a worse outcome in our patients. Most patients who died had evidence of meningeal involvement at the time of presentation. Instead, altered mental status at presentation, particularly obtundation or coma, was an ominous sign. We conclude that absence of meningitis is not a good predictor of outcome, as was previously thought. Altered mental status at the time of presentation may prove to be a stronger indicator of poor outcome.

(AJDC. 1991;145:218-220)