Transfusion for respiratory distress in life-threatening childhood malaria.
English M., Waruiru C., Marsh K.
We have prospectively collected information during resuscitation in 24 children with life-threatening malaria. All had clinical respiratory distress and 16 were severely anemic (hemoglobin < or = 5 g/dL) on admission. Central venous pressure (CVP) measurements were normal (< or = 5 cm of water) prior to treatment but all had a metabolic acidosis. The geometric mean lactate level was significantly higher in children admitted with severe anemia than in those without severe anemia (11.2 mmol/l versus 4.2 mmol/l; P = 0.009). Hypovolemia (a CVP on admission < 0 cm of water) was associated, although not significantly, with a higher admission plasma creatinine concentration (94 mumol/l versus 64 mumol/l; P = 0.06) and probably contributed to the severely reduced creatinine clearances (0-39 ml/min/1.73 ml2) found in 12 of the 13 children in whom this was assessed in the first 24 hr. Treatment resulted in a rapid decrease in blood lactate in 16 of the 13 children in whom this was assessed in the first 24 hr. Treatment resulted in a rapid decrease in blood lactate in 16 of the 20 children transfused, which was most dramatic in severely anemic children, who were rapidly resuscitated. In nonanemic children, early and rapid administration of normal saline usually resulted in both metabolic and clinical improvement. However, in three children, two of whom died, acidosis persisted despite resuscitation. Metabolic acidosis often accounts for respiratory distress in life-threatening childhood malaria. Severe anemia and hypovolemia appear to play major roles in its pathogenesis, are readily treatable, and there appears to be little risk of congestive cardiac failure even with an aggressive approach to fluid replacement.