We sought to identify risk factors for complications in hospitalized young infants with uncomplicated pertussis.


Retrospective cohort study of hospitalized infants 0 to 6 months of age with confirmed pertussis from 2005 to 2009. Subjects presenting without complications or need for initial intensive care admission were deemed to have uncomplicated pertussis. Complications during hospitalization were defined as apnea, pneumonia, seizures, or encephalopathy. Univariate analysis was performed by estimating odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for the association between each variable and the occurrence of complications. Multivariable analysis was performed using logistic regression. Clinical variables included demographics, historical, laboratory, and imaging data.


Of 126 study subjects, 46 (36.5%) developed complications in the hospital: 43 with apnea (two required endotracheal intubation), seven with pneumonia, and three with seizures; there were no cases of encephalopathy and no deaths. Age less than 60 days (OR, 2.71; 95% CI, 1.08-6.82), cough duration less than 7 days (OR, 5.38; 95% CI, 1.79-16.18), history of color change (OR, 5.24; 95% CI, 1.14-24.07), parental intervention (OR, 10.05; 95% CI, 1.67-60.39), and need for oxygen in the emergency department (OR. 3.94; 95% CI. 1.37-11.36) were associated with development of complications. The median duration of cough at the time of complication was 9 days (range 2-30 days). Initial complete blood cell count and radiographic findings were not associated with complications.


Infants with uncomplicated pertussis may be at low risk for developing respiratory failure or death. Historical information may assist practitioners in determining risk for serious complications.

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