Neurological sequelae of cerebral malaria in children
Brewster DR., Kwiatkowski D., White NJ.
Out of 604 Gambian children admitted with falciparum malaria to one hospital between September and December, 1988, 308 had cerebral malaria and 203 were severely anaemic (haemoglobin less than 60 g/l). 14% of those with cerebral malaria died, as did 7.8% of those with severe anaemia. 32 (12%) of children surviving cerebral malaria had residual neurological deficit. 69 other children were admitted with clinical features strongly suggestive of cerebral malaria but with negative blood films; 16 of these died and 3 had residual neurological deficits. The commonest sequelae of cerebral malaria were hemiplegia (23 cases), cortical blindness (11), aphasia (9), and ataxia (6). Factors predisposing to sequelae included prolonged coma, protracted convulsions, severe anaemia, and a biphasic clinical course characterised by recovery of consciousness followed by recurrent convulsions and coma. At follow up 1-6 months later over half these children had made a full recovery, but a quarter were left with a major residual neurological deficit. Cerebral malaria in childhood may be an important cause of neurological handicap in the tropics.