Dexamethasone and bacterial meningitis. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.


A meta-analysis of 5 randomized, controlled trials using dexamethasone as adjunctive therapy in the treatment of bacterial meningitis in children was done to assess the efficacy in reducing sequelae. A 6th study including both children and adults was analyzed separately. Results of the 5 pediatric studies indicated no significant difference in case-fatality rate between the placebo and dexamethasone groups. Significantly more neurologic sequelae were found in the placebo group during the period from discharge from hospital to 6 weeks after discharge (relative risk [RR] = 1.99, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.13 to 3.53) and during the period beginning 6 months after discharge (RR = 3.90, 95% CI 1.72 to 8.85). The incidence of neurologic sequelae from 6 weeks to 6 months after discharge, though less with dexamethasone administration, did not reach statistical significance. The frequency of bilateral hearing loss was significantly greater in the placebo group (RR = 4.12, 95% CI 1.74 to 9.79), but unilateral loss was not statistically different in the two groups. Dexamethasone administration in addition to antimicrobial therapy appears to be effective in reducing neurologic sequelae and bilateral hearing loss associated with bacterial meningitis in children.

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