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February 1991

Adult Overwhelming Meningococcal Purpura: A Study of 35 Cases, 1977-1989

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Medical Intensive Care Unit, Cochin Port-Royal University Hospital, Paris (Drs Giraud, Dhainaut, Schremmer, and Lanore); Infectious Diseases Department, Bichat-Claude Bernard University Hospital, Paris (Dr Regnier); and the Intensive Care Units of the Hôtel Dieu Hospital, Nantes (Dr Desjars), the Centre Médico-Chirurgical Foch, Suresnes (Dr Loirat), and Laennec Hospital, Paris (Dr Journois), France.

Arch Intern Med. 1991;151(2):310-316. doi:10.1001/archinte.1991.00400020068015

The study objective was to describe the clinical, biologic, and hemodynamic features of adult overwhelming meningococcal purpura and to examine the prognostic factors by multivariate analysis at the time of admission to the intensive care unit. Thirty-five patients (≥13 years of age) with meningococcal infection, circulatory shock, and generalized purpuric lesions of abrupt onset were recorded in eight intensive care units from 1977 to 1989. The patients were young (mean age, 26.6 years; range, 13 to 68 years) and had been previously healthy. The female-to-male ratio was 3:1. Mortality was 54.3%, with most deaths occurring within the first 48 hours, usually secondary to irreversible shock with multiple organ failure. Ischemic complications (eight cases), prolonged heart failure (seven cases), and secondary septicemia (five cases) were the chief complications among survivors. Initial hemodynamic study after volume loading showed low stroke volume index (mean ± SD, 29.4 ±13 mL/m2) and tachycardia (mean ± SD, 138 ± 16 beats per minute), a profile suggesting a greater myocardial depression than usually observed in gram-negative bacillary septic shock. Univariate prognostic analysis showed that four variables at the time of admission were associated with fatal outcome: a plasma fibrinogen level of 1.5 g/L or less, a factor V concentration of 0.20 or less, a platelet count lower than 80 × 109/L, and a cerebrospinal fluid leukocyte count of 20 × 106/L or less. Stepwise regression analysis showed that low fibrinogen level (≤1.5 g/L) was the sole adverse prognostic variable (odds ratio = 2, 95% confidence interval, 1.5 to 2.7). Adult overwhelming meningococcal purpura is still associated with high mortality and morbidity. Low fibrinogen level at time of admission may permit early recognition of the most severely ill patients.

(Arch Intern Med. 1991;151:310-316)

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