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Clinical Case Report

Paediatric neurological melioidosis: a rehabilitation case report

Submitted: 24 August 2015
Accepted: 9 December 2015
Published: 21 February 2016

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Author(s) : White ME, Hunt J, Connell C, Langdon K.

Meagan WhiteJacqueline HuntCheraine ConnellKatherine Langdon

Citation: White ME, Hunt J, Connell C, Langdon K.  Paediatric neurological melioidosis: a rehabilitation case report. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2016; 16: 3702. Available: (Accessed 21 October 2017)


Context:  Melioidosis is a rare condition, endemic to northern Australia and south-east Asia, caused by an infection from the bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei. The largest epidemiological review to date describes 540 cases of melioidosis seen at Darwin Hospital, in northern Australia, over a 20-year period. Of these, 14 (less than 3%) presented with neurological manifestation, with three deaths. Reports of paediatric cases of melioidosis are rarer. In a review of paediatric cases in northern Australia only eight cases were identified in 10 years. Three of these patients presented with neurological melioidosis, of whom two died in hospital.
Issues:  Whilst the literature refers to prolonged periods of hospitalisation for survivors, the trajectory of functional recovery and process of rehabilitation has not been described. This is a case report describing a 14-year-old boy who presented to a remote medical post with acute neurological symptoms (vomiting, severe headache, ataxia, cranial nerve VI and VII palsy) and was referred to the tertiary paediatric hospital in Perth, Western Australia. Cranial magnetic resonance imaging showed an extensive infiltrative lesion in the posterior fossa and hydrocephalus. Diagnosis of neurological melioidosis required isolation of the pathogen by brain biopsy through sub-occipital craniotomy. Medical treatment included surgical management of hydrocephalus, parenteral antibiotic treatment with meropenem and then a prolonged course of oral co-trimoxazole, enteral feeding and tonal management with levodopa–carbidopa and botulinum toxin A injections. Associated neurological signs and symptoms (bradykinesia, tremor, dysphagia, aphasia, hypertonia, exotropia) required intensive rehabilitation to address functional deficits and to promote independence. The purpose of this case report is to document the functional recovery and rehabilitation process of a paediatric case of neurological melioidosis. Knowledge of the recovery pathway is important to add to the understanding of natural history and treatment of this rare disease.
Lessons learned:  Occasions of service and functional assessments were recorded prospectively. Inpatient therapy (932 hours, with 934 occasions of service) was delivered across physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech pathology over 9 months of an inpatient admission. Initial paediatric functional independence measure (WeeFIM) was 18/126, indicating complete dependence in all physical and cognitive domains. Following 9 months of intensive rehabilitation the WeeFIM was 53/126, indicating significant residual disability. This proved to be a challenge for discharge planning back to a remote region of Western Australia. Paediatric neurological melioidosis can lead to significant disability and long-term dependence, despite the provision of lengthy intensive rehabilitation. This case report highlights the challenges and complexity of the rehabilitation services required to optimise outcomes for this patient and achieve a safe discharge to a remote community where limited support services are available.

Key words: Aboriginal health, allied health, Australia, neurological melioidosis, paediatric, rehabilitation.

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