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Cerebrovascular involvement in the acute phase of bacterial meningitis

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Cerebral ischaemia is a common complication of bacterial meningitis. Although cerebrovascular involvement in the acute phase of inflammation may be particularly important for the still unacceptably high morbidity and mortality, only, a few studies have investigated cerebrovascular changes in bacterial meningitis. We prospectively investigated changes of intracranial cerebral blood flow velocities (CBFV) in 22 patients (12 men, 10 women, mean age 48 years, 19 years, SD) with bacterial meningitis, by means of transcranial Doppler sonography (TCD). According to previously published criteria the degree of arterial narrowing was assessed and related to the patients’ outcome. Elevated CBFVs in the middle cerebral artery were documented in 18/22 patients with markedly increased systolic peak velocities (CBFV of > 210 cm/s) in 7 patients. Serial examinations performed in 11 patients showed elevated CBFV as early as day 1, reaching peak CBFV between day 3 and day 6 after onset of symptoms in most cases. Furthermore, cerebrovascular involvement was also documented by disturbances of physiological slow spontaneous oscillations of blood flow velocities in 5/10 patients examined with TCD. Low Glasgow Coma Scales (< 7) on admission (29% vs 0%), focal cerebral ischaemic deficits (29% vs 7%) and, seizures (43% vs 7%) were more frequent in patients with CBFV of > 210 cm/s. Finally, a poor clinical outcome was significantly related to severe vascular involvement (P < 0.05).

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Received: 26 February 1996 Received in revised form: 16 July 1996 Accepted: 5 August 1996

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Ries, S., Schminke, U., Fassbender, K. et al. Cerebrovascular involvement in the acute phase of bacterial meningitis. J Neurol 244, 51–55 (1996).

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