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We evaluated the implementation and effectiveness of adjunctive dexamethasone in adults with meningococcal meningitis. We compared 2 Dutch prospective nationwide cohort studies on community-acquired meningococcal meningitis. A total of 258 patients with CSF culture-proven meningitis were enrolled between 1998 and 2002, before routine dexamethasone therapy was introduced, and 100 patients from March 2006 to January 2011, after guidelines recommended dexamethasone. Dexamethasone was administered in 43 of 258 (17%) patients in the 1998-2002 cohort and in 86 of 96 (90%) patients in the 2006-2011 cohort (p < 0.001), and was started with or before the first dose of antibiotics in 12 of 258 (5%) and 85 of 96 (89%) patients (p < 0.001). Rates of unfavorable outcome were similar between cohorts (12 of 100 [12%] vs 30 of 258 [12%]; p = 0.67), also after correction for meningococcal serogroup. The rates of hearing loss (3 of 96 [3%] vs 19 of 237 [8%]; p = 0.10) and death (4 of 100 [4%] vs 19 of 258 [7%]; p = 0.24) were lower in the 2006-2011 cohort, but this did not reach significance. The rate of arthritis was lower in patients treated with dexamethasone (32 of 258 [12%] vs 5 of 96 [5%], p = 0.046). Dexamethasone was not associated with adverse events. Adjunctive dexamethasone is widely prescribed for patients with meningococcal meningitis and is not associated with harm. The rate of arthritis has decreased after the implementation of dexamethasone. This study provides Class III evidence that adjuvant dexamethasone in adults with meningococcal meningitis does not increase negative outcomes such as deafness, death, or negative Glasgow Outcome Scale measures.


Sebastiaan G B Heckenberg, Matthijs C Brouwer, Arie van der Ende, Diederik van de Beek. Adjunctive dexamethasone in adults with meningococcal meningitis. Neurology. 2012 Oct 9;79(15):1563-9

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PMID: 22972648

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