Cochrane Summaries

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Corticosteroids for treating cerebral malaria

Prasad K, Garner P
Published Online: 
15 April 2009

Cerebral malaria is a severe form of the disease that can induce convulsions and coma; about 15% to 50% of patients with cerebral malaria will die, and 5% to 10% of survivors are left disabled as a result of brain damage.

In the past decades, health professionals often gave corticosteroids such as dexamethasone and hydrocortisone, as well as antimalarial drugs, to patients with cerebral malaria, with the aim of reducing the effects of swelling and inflammation in the brain.

This review assesses the effects of corticosteroid drugs given for cerebral malaria, on death, life-threatening complications, and residual disability in survivors.

The authors included two trials with a total of 143 patients (both adults and children). There were no significant differences in the number of deaths between the corticosteroid and control groups, and data on clinical complications were difficult to assess. Neither trial examined disability.