Objectives: To improve algorithms for the identification of children at risk of dying of malaria in endemic areas.
Study design: In a prospective study of 2446 children with severe and complicated malaria admitted to a tertiary referral center in Ghana, West Africa, 12 clinical and laboratory signs were evaluated as indicators of death.
Results: A prolonged (> 2 seconds) capillary refill time (pCRT) was identified as an independent prognostic indicator of death along with acidosis, coma, and respiratory distress. Among the clinical signs, pCRT increased the risk of dying from 4-fold to 11-fold when present in addition to coma and respiratory distress.
Conclusions: The recognition of pCRT as an independent indicator of death justifies its inclusion as a defining criterion of severe and complicated malaria and improves the use of clinical examinations in the triage of patients with malaria. As pCRT has been shown to reflect circulatory disturbances in children, it should be included in upcoming studies as a possible sign to indicate the need for intravenous fluid administration.