Acute versus subacute community-acquired meningitis: Analysis of 611 patients

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Community-acquired meningitis can be classified into acute and subacute presentations by the duration of illness of ≤ or >5 days, respectively. There are currently no studies comparing the clinical features, management decisions, etiologies, and outcomes between acute and subacute presentations.

It is a retrospective study of adults with community-acquired meningitis hospitalized in Houston, TX between January 2005 and January 2010. An adverse clinical outcome was defined as a Glasgow Outcome Scale score of ≤4.

A total of 611 patients were identified, of which 458 (75%) were acute and 153 subacute (25%). The most common etiologies were unknown in 418 (68.4%), viral in 94 (15.4%), bacterial in 47 (7.7%), fungal in 42 patients (6.9%), and other noninfectious etiologies in 6 (1%). Patients with subacute meningitis were more likely to be immunosuppressed or have comorbidities, had fungal etiologies, and had higher rates of hypoglycorrachia and abnormal neurological findings (P <.05). Patients with an acute presentation were more likely to be treated empirically with intravenous antibiotics and had higher cerebrospinal fluid pleocytosis and serum white blood cell counts (P <.05). On logistic regression, age >65 years and abnormal neurological findings were predictive of an adverse clinical outcome in both acute and subacute meningitis, whereas fever was also a significant prognostic factor in acute meningitis. (P <.05).

Acute and subacute meningitis differ in regards to clinical presentations, etiologies, laboratory findings, and management decisions, but did not differ in rates of adverse clinical outcomes. Future studies including thoroughly investigated patients with new diagnostic molecular methods may show different results and outcomes.

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