Cerebrospinal fluid pleocytosis and prognosis in invasive meningococcal disease in children

Richard Malley, Stanley H. Inkelis, Peter Coelho, W. C. Huskins, Nathan Kuppermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background. The absence of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pleocytosis in invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) has been associated with an increased risk of death. It is unknown whether patients who lack a cellular response to central nervous system (CNS) infection are at the same risk of adverse outcome as patients who lack CNS infection. Objectives. To determine the frequency of presentation and outcome of three groups of children with IMD: Group 1, children with CSF pleocytosis; Group 2, children without CSF pleocytosis and with negative CSF cultures (bacteremia alone); and Group 3, children without CSF pleocytosis but with positive CSF cultures (CNS infection without CSF pleocytosis). Methods. We reviewed the medical records of children with IMD at four pediatric referral hospitals between 1985 and 1996. Clinical and laboratory indices and severe adverse outcomes (defined as death or limb loss) were compared in the three groups. Multivariable logistic regression analysis was performed to determine whether CNS infection without CSF pleocytosis was independently associated with adverse outcome in IMD. Results. Three hundred seventy-seven children with IMD were identified. Eighty-six patients were excluded because their CSF analysis either was not done or was unevaluable; of these patients 22 (25.6%) had an adverse outcome. Of the 291 evaluable patients 204 (70.1%) had CSF pleocytosis, 52 (17.9%) had bacteremia alone and 35 (12.0%) had CNS infection without CSF pleocytosis. Patients with CNS infection without CSF pleocytosis had significantly lower white blood cell and platelet counts and more coagulopathy than patients with bacteremia alone (P ≤ 0.05) or patients with CSF pleocytosis (P ≤ 0.01). The frequency of adverse outcome was 40% for patients with CNS infection without CSF pleocytosis compared with 9.6% for patients with bacteremia alone (P = 0.001) and 3.4% for patients with CSF pleocytosis (P < 0.001). CNS infection without CSF pleocytosis was independently associated with adverse outcome by multivariable logistic regression analysis (P = 0.003). Conclusions. Approximately 30% of all children with IMD present without CSF pleocytosis. Of these patients those with CNS infection without pleocytosis are at higher risk of adverse outcome than either patients with CSF pleocytosis or patients with bacteremia alone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)855-859
Number of pages5
JournalPediatric Infectious Disease Journal
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1998


  • Cerebrospinal fluid pleocytosis
  • Meningitis
  • Neisseria meningitidis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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