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Curr Med Res Opin. 2010 Sep;26(9):2175-81. doi: 10.1185/03007995.2010.505126.

Fatality rates in published reports of RSV hospitalizations among high-risk and otherwise healthy children.

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School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, State University of New York at Buffalo, Women and Children's Hospital, Buffalo, NY 14222, USA.



To review the fatalities among children hospitalized with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection, and identify factors leading to a fatal outcome.


Review of literature identified from a structured search of PubMed (1966-2009) using the following Medical Subject Headings: respiratory syncytial virus infection; hospitalized; infants; and risk factors. Publications were restricted to: English language; full papers; inclusion of > or =10 subjects; children aged < or =18 years, hospitalization for RSV infection; and deaths reported. Case fatality rates were defined as number of deaths divided by number of children hospitalized for RSV and were calculated for each study.


Thirty-six studies met the inclusion and exclusion criteria. Case fatality rates among children hospitalized for RSV ranged from 0 to 33%. In general, studies showed that subgroups of high-risk children (chronic lung disease [CLD] 3.5-23%, congenital heart disease [CHD] 2-37%, and prematurity 0-6.1%) had higher fatality rates than older or otherwise healthy children (consistently <1%). Presence of severe underlying comorbidities such as neuromuscular disease, immunosuppression, and malignancies was associated with death among term and/or older (>1 year) children. Higher fatality rates were reported for infants receiving intensive unit care (1.1-8.6%), extracorporeal life support (33%) or for those who acquired nosocomial RSV infection (0-12.2%). The majority of studies did not report cause of death and clinical details of the fatal cases were often not provided. Other limitations of this review include our search limits, the possibility of inherent bias in our methodology that could result in an under or over estimation of case-fatality rates, and potential publication bias.


Children at high risk for RSV (CLD, CHD and prematurity), those with severe underlying comorbidities, or those with nosocomial RSV appear to be at increased risk for death after RSV hospitalization. More data are needed on cause of death and how much is directly attributable to RSV.

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