Objective. To study the effect of high-dose prednisone on intracranial pressure (ICP), cranial computed tomographic (CT) findings, and clinical outcome in young children with moderate to severe tuberculous meningitis (TBM).

Study Design. Prospective, controlled, randomized study.

Methods. Continuous lumbar cerebrospinal fluid pressure monitoring and contrasted CT scanning were performed in 141 consecutive children with TBM at admission. All children were then randomly allocated to a nonsteroid group (71 children) or a steroid group (70 children) who received prednisone (first 16 children, 2 mg/kg per day; next 54 children, 4 mg/kg per day) for the first month of treatment. ICP monitoring and CT scanning were repeated regularly, and clinical outcome was assessed after 6 months of antituberculosis treatment.

Results. No statistically significant difference in ICP or the degree of hydrocephalus (as demonstrated by CT scan) was found between the steroid and nonsteroid groups after the first month of treatment. Basal ganglia infarcts developed in 16% of children in the steroid group and 24% in the nonsteroid group during the first month of treatment. Neither this incidence nor the eventual size of infarcts present at admission differed significantly between the two treatment groups. Single or multiple tuberculomas were seen on the first CT scans of 7 children (5%), whereas tuberculomas developed in 11 children (8%) at treatment. Both the response of the tuberculomas to treatment and the incidence of new tuberculomas were significantly improved by steroid therapy. Basal enhancement was also significantly less in the steroid group after 1 month of treatment. Steroids lowered mortality in stage III TBM significantly. Similarly, more surviving children in the steroid group had IQs of greater than 75 than did the those in the nonsteroid group. No significant difference was found in the incidence of motor deficit, blindness, or deafness.

Conclusions. Corticosteroids significantly improved the survival rate and intellectual outcome of children with TBM. Enhanced resolution of the basal exudate and tuberculomas by steroids was shown by serial CT scanning. Corticosteroids did not affect ICP or the incidence of basal ganglia infarction significantly.

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