Fatal meningococcal septicemia

Arch Pathol Lab Med. 1977 Jan;101(1):6-9.


The morphologic and clinical findings in seven fatal cases of meningococcal septicemia are described and interpreted in light of recent experimental and clinical studies. We include evidence that suggests the disease has two distinct pathogenetic mechanisms. First, a shock-like terminal phase is associated with the development of widespread pulmonary microvascular thrombosis. These thrombi, composed largely of platelets and leukocytes, produce severe cor pulmonale that cannot be prevented with heparin sodium treatment. Meningococcal endotoxin also produces disseminated intravascular coagulation, which includes the rapid consumption of fibrinogen and the formation of fibrin thrombi in adrenal and renal glomerular capillaries, causing hemorrhagic infarction of the adrenal glands and renal cortical necrosis. This secondary phase of the disease can be modified with heparin therapy, but its control does not improve survival because the parenchymal lesions produced are not immediately life threatening.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenal Glands / pathology
  • Adult
  • Aspirin / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Kidney / pathology
  • Lung / pathology
  • Meningococcal Infections / complications
  • Meningococcal Infections / drug therapy
  • Meningococcal Infections / pathology*
  • Sepsis / drug therapy
  • Sepsis / etiology
  • Sepsis / pathology*
  • Thrombosis / pathology


  • Aspirin