The Association of Pallor With Haemoglobin Concentration and Mortality in Severe Malaria

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To identify a marker associated with poor outcome in severe malaria that requires no technology, the relationship between the presence of pallor and mortality was reviewed retrospectively in 291 Zambian children with cerebral malaria. The mean (S.D.) haemoglobin concentration among the 222 children assessed as having pallor on admission was significantly lower than that among the 69 children not considered to have pallor [6.0 (1.9) v. 9.2 (1.6) g/dl; P < 0.0005]. Thirty-nine (17.6%) of the children presenting with pallor died, compared with only five (7.2%) of those without pallor (P = 0.036). The adjusted odds of death in children with pallor on admission was 2.8 times higher than that in children without pallor (95% confidence interval = 1.03-7.7; P = 0.044). The clinical observation of pallor may therefore identify children with low haemoglobin concentrations and a high risk of mortality. Whether mothers and village health workers can be taught to recognize pallor in a child with malaria and then to seek early medical attention will need to be determined in further studies.

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