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Brain abscess in children, a two-centre audit: outcomes and controversies

Abstract

Objective The aim of this study was to better characterise clinical presentation, management and outcome in infants and children with brain abscess.

Methods The authors conducted a retrospective, multicentre study in two national reference centres over a 25-year period (1992–2017). During this period, 116 children and 28 infants (age <1 year) with brain abscess were treated.

Results The median age at diagnosis was 101.5 (range: 13–213) months in children and 1 (0–11) month in infants. Significant differences were observed between children and infants. The most common predisposing factor was meningitis in infants (64% of cases vs 3% in children), while it was otolaryngology-related infection in children (31% of cases vs 3.6% in infants). Infants presented more frequently with fever and meningism compared with children. 115 patients were treated with aspiration and 11 with excision. Reoperation was required in 29 children vs 1 infant. The overall mortality rate was 4% (3.4% for children, 7.1% for infants). At 3-month follow-up, the outcome was favourable in 86% of children vs in 68% of infants.

Conclusion There is a clear difference between children and infants with brain abscess in terms of predisposing factors, causative organisms and outcome. Despite surgical drainage and directed antibiotic therapy, 25% of patients with brain abscess require reoperation. Mortality is improved compared with historical series; however, long-term morbidity is significant particularly in the infant population.

  • brain abscess
  • children
  • paediatric neurosurgery
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