Prevalence of Cardiac Dysfunction in Malawian Children With Severe Febrile Illness

Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2022 Jul 1;23(7):493-501. doi: 10.1097/PCC.0000000000002964. Epub 2022 May 11.


Objectives: To investigate the prevalence of left ventricular systolic dysfunction (LVSD) in Malawian children with severe febrile illness and to explore associations between LVSD and mortality and lactate levels.

Design: Prospective observational study.

Setting: Pediatric ward of a tertiary government referral hospital in Malawi.

Patients: Children between 60 days and 10 years old with severe febrile illness (fever with at least one sign of impaired perfusion plus altered mentation or respiratory distress) were enrolled at admission from October 2017 to February 2018.

Interventions: Focused cardiac ultrasound (FoCUS) was performed, and serum lactate was measured for each child at enrollment, with repeat FoCUS the following day. LV systolic function was later categorized as normal, reduced, severely reduced, or hyperdynamic by two pediatric cardiologists blinded to clinical course and outcomes.

Measurements and main results: Fifty-four children were enrolled. LVSD was present in 14 children (25.9%; 95% CI, 15.4-40.3%), of whom three had severely reduced function. Thirty patients (60%) had a lactate greater than 2.5 mmol/L, of which 20 (40%) were markedly elevated (>5 mmol/L). Ten children died during admission (18.5%). Of children who survived, 22.7% had decreased LV systolic function versus 40% of those who died. Dysfunction was not associated with mortality or elevated lactate.

Conclusions: Cardiac dysfunction may be present in one in four Malawian children with severe febrile illness, and mortality in these patients is especially high. Larger studies are needed to further clarify the role cardiac dysfunction plays in mortality and integrate practical bedside assessments for decision support around individualized resuscitation strategies.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Echocardiography
  • Heart Diseases*
  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid
  • Prevalence
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Left* / epidemiology


  • Lactic Acid