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October 2021

Ann Trop Paediatr. 1997 Mar; 17(1): 39-44.

Acute lead encephalopathy in early infancy--clinical presentation and outcome.

al Khayat A, Menon NS, Alidina MR.

Department of Pediatrics, Al Wasl Maternity & Pediatric Hospital, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

We studied 19 infants with a mean age of 3.8 months who presented with features consistent with acute lead encephalopathy following the use of traditional medicines. All presented with convulsions; CT scans of the brain on admission showed brain oedema in four, atrophy in four and normal findings in 11. Cerebrospinal fluid analysis in nine patients showed pleocytosis in six and a high protein content in eight. The median lead level in these 19 infants which encephalopathy was 3.6 mumol/l (74.5 micrograms/dl). Seven had a mean lead level of only 2.7 mumol/l (56.9 micrograms/dl) which is much below 70 micrograms/dl, the level usually proposed as the threshold for encephalopathy. Thirteen infants developed brain damage during follow-up; statistical analysis correlated the lead level at 2 months post chelation with an abnormal neurological outcome. Our findings indicate that in very young infants acute lead encephalopathy may occur at lead level lower than previously reported.

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