Critical Care Aspects of Malaria

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Malaria remains a major health problem in much of Asia and Africa. A steady number of cases of imported malaria are also seen in many countries of the developed world. Plasmodium falciparum malaria and to some extent malaria caused by other species of Plasmodium can lead to many complications such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), cerebral malaria, acute renal failure, severe anemia, thrombocytopenia, and bleeding complications. About 10% of patients with severe malaria die, usually as a result of multiorgan dysfunction. Critical care physicians should be aware of the complications and management of severe malaria. There has been significant progress in the understanding of pathogenesis of severe malaria over the last decade. Effective management of severe malaria includes early suspicion, prompt diagnosis, early institution of appropriate antimalarial chemotherapy, and supportive care, preferably in an intensive care unit. In this article, we review the different manifestations of severe malaria as relevant to critical care physicians and discuss the principles of laboratory diagnosis and management.

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