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Crit Care. 2006;10(4):R107.

Extrapulmonary manifestations of severe respiratory syncytial virus infection--a systematic review.

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  • 1Luton & Dunstable Hospital, Lewsey Road, Luton, Bedfordshire, LU4 ODZ, UK.



Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) bronchiolitis is the most important cause for admission to the paediatric intensive care unit in infants with lower respiratory tract infection. In recent years the importance of extrapulmonary manifestations of RSV infection has become evident. This systematic review aimed at summarizing the available evidence on manifestations of RSV infection outside the respiratory tract, their causes and the changes in clinical management required.


Databases searched were Medline (1950 to present), EMBASE (1974 to present), PubMed and reference lists of relevant articles. Summarized were the findings of articles reporting on manifestations of RSV infection outside the respiratory tract in patients of all age groups.


Extrapulmonary manifestations reported in previous observational studies included cardiovascular failure with hypotension and inotrope requirements associated with myocardial damage as evident from elevated cardiac troponin levels (35-54% of ventilated infants), cardiac arrhythmias like supraventricular tachycardias and ventricular tachycardias, central apnoeas (16-21% of admissions), focal and generalized seizures, focal neurological abnormalities, hyponatraemia (33%) associated with increased antidiuretic hormone secretion, and hepatitis (46-49% of ventilated infants). RSV or its genetic material have been isolated from cerebrospinal fluid, myocardium, liver and peripheral blood.


The data summarized indicate a systemic dissemination of RSV during severe disease. Cerebral and myocardial involvement may explain the association of RSV with some cases of sudden infant death. In infants with severe RSV infection cardiac rhythm, blood pressure and serum sodium need to be monitored and supportive treatment including fluid management adjusted accordingly.

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