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N Engl J Med. 1990 Dec 13;323(24):1651-7.

Seizures and other neurologic sequelae of bacterial meningitis in children.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO.



Although the mortality rate among children with bacterial meningitis has decreased dramatically in recent decades, some patients are left with neurologic sequelae. It has not been clearly established which features of the acute illness predict the chronic neurologic sequelae, including late seizures or epilepsy.


We followed 185 infants and children prospectively during and after acute bacterial meningitis. The mean duration of follow-up was 8.9 years (range, 0.1 to 15.5). During the first six years standard neurologic examinations were performed; telephone interviews were conducted thereafter.


One month after meningitis, 69 children (37 percent) had neurologic abnormalities. Many of these signs resolved within a year, leaving only 26 children (14 percent) with persistent deficits: 18 (10 percent) had only sensorineural hearing loss, and 8 (4 percent) had multiple neurologic deficits. Thirteen children (7 percent) had one or more late seizures not associated with fever. The presence of persistent neurologic deficits indicative of cerebral injury was the only independent predictor of late afebrile seizures (P less than 0.001).


After bacterial meningitis only children with permanent neurologic deficits are at high risk for epilepsy. Those with normal examinations after the acute illness have an excellent change of escaping serious neurologic sequelae, including epilepsy.

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