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close this bookGuidelines for the Treatment of Malaria (WHO; 2006; 266 pages) View the PDF document
View the documentGlossary
View the documentAbbreviations
open this folder and view contents1. Introduction
View the document2. The clinical disease
open this folder and view contents3. Treatment objectives
open this folder and view contents4. Diagnosis of malaria
open this folder and view contents5. Resistance to antimalarial medicines9
open this folder and view contents6. Antimalarial treatment policy
open this folder and view contents7. Treatment of uncomplicated P. Falciparum malaria10
close this folder8. Treatment of severe falciparum malaria14
View the document8.1 Definition
View the document8.2 Treatment objectives
View the document8.3 Clinical assessment
View the document8.4 Specific antimalarial treatment
View the document8.5 Practical aspects of treatment
View the document8.6 Follow-on treatment
View the document8.7 Pre-referral treatment options16
View the document8.8 Adjunctive treatment
View the document8.9 Continuing supportive care
View the document8.10 Additional aspects of clinical management
View the document8.11 Treatment during pregnancy
View the document8.12 Management in epidemic situations
View the document8.13 Hyperparasitaemia18
open this folder and view contents9. Treatment of malaria caused by P. vivax, P. ovale or P. malariae19
View the document10. Mixed malaria infections
open this folder and view contents11. Complex emergencies and epidemics
open this folder and view contentsAnnexes

8.3 Clinical assessment

Severe malaria is a medical emergency. The airway should be secured in unconscious patients and breathing and circulation assessed. The patient should be weighed or body weight estimated so that drugs, including antimalarials and fluids can be given on a body weight basis. An intravenous cannula should be inserted and immediate measurements of blood glucose (stick test), haematocrit/haemoglobin, parasitaemia and, in adults, renal function should be taken. A detailed clinical examination should be conducted, with particular note of the level of consciousness and record of the coma score. Several coma scores have been advocated. The Glasgow coma scale is suitable for adults, and the simple Blantyre modification or children's Glasgow coma scale are easily performed in children. Unconscious patients should have a lumbar puncture for cerebrospinal fluid analysis to exclude bacterial meningitis.

The degree of acidosis is an important determinant of outcome; the plasma bicarbonate or venous lactate level should therefore be measured if possible. If facilities are available, arterial or capillary blood pH and gases should be measured in patients who are unconscious, hyperventilating or in shock. Blood should be taken for cross-match, and (if possible) full blood count, platelet count, clotting studies, blood culture and full biochemistry should be conducted. The assessment of fluid balance is critical in severe malaria. Respiratory distress, in particular with acidotic breathing in severely anaemic children, often indicates hypovolaemia and requires prompt rehydration and, where indicated, blood transfusion (see also section 8.10.3).

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