Lemierre's and Lemierre's-like syndromes in children: survival and thromboembolic outcomes

Neil A Goldenberg, R Knapp-Clevenger, Taru Hays, Marilyn J Manco-Johnson
Pediatrics 2005, 116 (4): e543-8

OBJECTIVE: Lemierre's syndrome, or jugular vein thrombosis (JVT) associated with anaerobic infection of the head and neck and frequently complicated by septic pulmonary embolism (PE), has historically been described as a disease of young adults. In recent years, an increasing number of case reports of childhood Lemierre's syndrome have been published, focusing mostly on the clinical and laboratory findings at disease presentation and the outcomes of infection. Given the potentially life-threatening thromboembolic complications of this disorder, we reviewed our single-institutional experience with pediatric Lemierre's and Lemierre's-like syndromes (LALLS) from within the context of a larger cohort study of thrombosis in children.

METHODS: Children who were aged from birth to 21 years and had received a diagnosis of JVT and Lemierre's syndrome at the Children's Hospital (Denver, CO) between 2001 and 2005 were identified for inclusion. Case designation of LALLS required all the following: (1) radiologic confirmation of JVT, (2) clinical diagnosis of pharyngitis or other febrile illness, and (3) intraoperative evidence of loculated infection in the head and neck region or radiologic demonstration of bilateral pulmonary infiltrates. Isolation of a causative organism by microbiologic culture of blood, tissue, or purulent fluid was also a necessary diagnostic criterion among patients who had not been treated with antibiotics before culture. A designation of classic Lemierre's syndrome was reserved for documented cases of anaerobic infection. Children in whom JVT was associated with the presence of an ipsilateral central venous catheter were excluded from the analysis. Analysis included information on underlying medical conditions, microbiologic and radiologic findings, and comprehensive hypercoagulability testing results from the time of diagnosis, as well as antimicrobial and anticoagulant therapies administered. In addition, clinical outcomes were evaluated via serial follow-up and included bleeding complications, thrombus resolution on serial radiologic studies, symptomatic recurrent venous thromboembolism (VTE), and mortality.

RESULTS: From January 2001 to January 2005, 9 children with LALLS were identified. Median age was 15 years (range: 2.5-20 years). Clinical presentation was consistent with septic PE in 5 cases and septic shock in 2. Thrombophilia was present in 100% (7 of 7) of children tested, consisting principally of antiphospholipid antibodies and elevated factor VIII activity. Anticoagulation was given in 89% (8 of 9), for a median duration of 3 months (range: 7 weeks-1 year). After a median follow-up time of 1 year, all children had survived without recurrent VTE or anticoagulant-associated major hemorrhage. JVT failed to resolve at 3 to 6 months in 38% of anticoagulated children.

CONCLUSIONS: Our experience suggests that LALLS is an emerging pediatric concern with serious acute (eg, septic PE) and chronic (eg, persistent vascular occlusion) complications. Septic JVT may not be uniquely anaerobic, and the inflammatory prothrombotic state is often characterized by antiphospholipid antibodies and elevated factor VIII levels. Early diagnosis and aggressive antimicrobial and antithrombotic therapies in LALLS may be necessary for optimal long-term outcomes.

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