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Study Finds Hypothermia does not help Patients with Severe Bacterial Meningitis

Update Date: Nov 27, 2013 01:10 PM EST

Severe bacterial meningitis occurs when the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord are inflamed due to bacterial infection. Symptoms of bacterial meningitis are nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and altered mental state. The condition can cause serious complications, which include brain damage, deafness or learning disorders. Due to the potential dangers, researchers have worked hard to find new and better treatment methods. In an animal study, researchers found that inducing hypothermia could be effective. However, a new study found that therapeutic hypothermia has no effect for humans with severe bacterial meningitis.

For this study, the research team headed by Bruno Mourvillier, M.D., of the Universite Paris Diderot, Sorbonne Paris Cite, Paris, observed the effects of inducing hypothermia on patients with severe bacterial meningitis. The study included 98 comatose adult patients from 49 intensive care units located in France. The patients were randomly assigned to either the therapeutic hypothermia treatment or a placebo group. The treatment group, composed of 49 people, received a dose of saline at 39.2 Fahrenheit. The dose cooled to 89.6 degrees and then 93.2 degrees Fahrenheit. The other 49 patients received standard care.

The study was ended early after concerns for the safety of the patients in the hypothermia group rose. The researchers reported that 51 percent, or 25 of the 49 patients, in the hypothermia group died. In the control group, 15 of the 49 people, or 31 percent, died. 77 percent of the patients overall had pneumococcal meningitis. The researchers examined the effects at three months using the Glasgow Outcome Scale, which assesses physical function after cerebral injuries. They found that after three months had elapsed, 86 percent of the people in the hypothermia group had an unfavorable outcome. Only 74 percent of the people in the control group experienced an unfavorable outcome.

"Although there was a trend toward higher mortality and rate of unfavorable outcome in the hypothermia group, early stopping of clinical trials is known to exaggerate treatment effects, precluding firm conclusions about harm of therapeutic hypothermia in bacterial meningitis," the authors wrote according to Medical Xpress.

The researchers concluded that therapeutic hypothermia is not an effective treatment for people suffering from severe bacterial meningitis. The study was published in JAMA.

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