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Background: Treatment of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) lower respiratory tract infection has historically been one of the most frequent reasons for admission to Driscoll Children's Hospital.

Objective: The objective of this study was to examine the relationship of risk factors for a severe and complicated disease course to the treatment and hospital length of stay.

Methods: Subjects were identified through a retrospective review of the medical records of all patients discharged with a diagnosis of RSV lower respiratory tract infection during 9 of the 11 RSV seasons between July 1, 1991 and June 30, 2002. The RSV seasons from 1991-1992 to 1994-1995 were compared with the RSV seasons from 1995-1996 to 2001-2002 with regard to treatment and hospital course.

Results: There were a total of 3308 admissions. Compared with patients with no risk factors, higher percentages of patients with age <6 weeks, history of prematurity, congenital heart disease and neurologic disease were admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) and required mechanical ventilation (P < 0.001). Also the hospital length of stay was longer for patients with each of these individual risk factors (P < 0.001). The hospital length of stay and the percentages of patients admitted to the PICU and requiring on mechanical ventilation increased as the number of risk factors increased from zero to 3 or more (P < 0.001). Of patients with 3 or more risk factors, the average hospital length of stay was 13.5 days; 67% were admitted to the PICU, and 47% required mechanical ventilation. Ribavirin use decreased in patients with each of the individual risk factors (P < 0.001) as well as in patients with one or more risk factors (P < 0.001). At the same time the PICU admission rate increased from 6.1% to 11.2% (P < 0.001).

Conclusions: Patients with three or more risk factors were at very high risk for having a severe or complicated disease course associated with admission to the PICU, placement on mechanical ventilation and a longer hospital length of stay.

(C) 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.