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Severe Complications of Measles Requiring Intensive Care in Infants and Young Children

Oren Abramson, MD; Ron Dagan, MD; Asher Tal, MD; Shaul Sofer, MD
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149(11):1237-1240. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1995.02170240055008.
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Objective:  To evaluate the characteristics of severe complications of measles in patients admitted to a pediatric intensive care unit.

Design:  Clinical description of a case series.

Setting:  The Pediatric Intensive Care Unit of Soroka Medical Center, Beer-Sheva, Israel, during a measles epidemic.

Patients:  Fifteen pediatric patients with measles requiring intensive care.

Results:  Fifteen of 237 hospitalized children with measles required intensive care in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Eleven patients were malnourished; none had been vaccinated for measles. All 15 patients required mechanical ventilation for pneumonia that had caused severe respiratory distress. Twelve of 15 patients were severely hypoxemic before intubation. Seven had a clinical syndrome consistent with adult respiratory distress syndrome. Other complications on admission to the intensive care unit included spontaneous pneumothorax in three patients, empyema in two, encephalopathy in seven, shock in three, sepsis in five, hypocalcemia in 11, thrombocytopenia in eight, and coagulopathy in seven. Complications during treatment included pneumothorax in four patients, fibrosing alveolitis in one, brain infarct in one, thrombus formation in three, and nosocomial sepsis in one. Four patients had long-term sequelae (chronic lung disease, subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, hemiplegia, and partial amputation of a limb), and seven patients recovered uneventfully. Four patients died; all had adult respiratory distress syndrome, three had pneumothorax, and one had nosocomial sepsis.

Conclusions:  Patients with measles who require intensive care have a high risk for death or long-term complications, even when treated in a modern pediatric intensive care unit. Adult respiratory distress syndrome and air leaks were the most severe complications in these patients. To reduce the severity of these complications, mechanical ventilation should be based on using the lowest possible inspiratory pressure and fraction of inspired oxygen, while accepting an arterial oxygen pressure less than 60 mm Hg. Secondary bacteremia was an early and prominent complication, and antibiotic treatment should be instituted early in patients with measles requiring intensive care.(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149:1237-1240)

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