Objective: The purpose of this study was to describe varicella complications that result in the hospitalization of children in our hospital, as well as the associated cost.
Patients and methods: A retrospective study involving 84 children hospitalized for complications due to varicella between January 1993 and December 1997 was carried out. Oncology patients were excluded. Data about age, sex, previous health conditions, complications developed, days of admission and treatments, amongst others, was collected and descriptive statistics performed. We also estimated the costs of hospitalization.
Results: We identified 84 children hospitalized for complications of varicella, which represents 2.67% of the total cases of varicella attended in the Emergency Room (3,135). Of these children, 72.6% were healthy before the onset of varicella. The mean age was 3.3 +/- 2.6 years. Skin or soft tissue infections were the most common complication, with all of the cases occurring in children under 5 years of age. Central nervous system complications were found in 19.27%, with involvement of the cerebellum accounting for the majority of the cases of encephalitis. Bilateral facial palsy was observed in one patient. Respiratory complications (14.45%) included pneumonia, bronchitis and croup. Other types of complications, such as gastrointestinal (9.63%), musculo-skeletal (4.76%) and hematological were less frequent. The mean hospital stay was 7.7 +/- 4.8 days. The cost associated with the admission of these children was 43,681,528 pesetas.
Conclusions: Varicella complications represent an important morbidity for a disease that has long been considered benign and inevitable in children. The implementation of a varicella vaccine program for healthy children would be beneficial for the prevention of complications and the reduction in their associated cost to the health care system.