Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection in children with medical complexity

  • A. Lim
  • M. L. Butt
  • J. Dix
  • L. Elliott
  • B. PaesEmail author
Original Article


Children with medical complexity (CMC) are vulnerable to respiratory illness hospitalization (RIH) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)-related hospitalization (RSVH) due to multisystem disorders and compromised airways. It is unknown whether RSV prophylaxis is effective, or if RSVH is associated with significant morbidities in CMC. The study objectives were to (1) determine the incidence of RSV-related infection in prophylaxed CMC during the first 3 years of life and (2) assess the burden of illness following RSVH. A single tertiary center, retrospective study, was conducted of CMC who received palivizumab during the 2012–2016 RSV seasons. Fifty-four subjects were enrolled; most received one (38.9%, n = 21) or two (57.4%, n = 31) seasons of prophylaxis (mean = 4.2 [SD = 1.24], palivizumab doses per season). The cohort comprised children with multiple medical conditions (n = 22, 40.8%), tracheostomy (n = 18, 33.3%), and invasive (n = 10, 18.5%) or non-invasive (n = 4, 7.4%) ventilation. Of the CMC, 24 were hospitalized 47 times for a viral-related respiratory illness. RSV incidence in the first 3 years of life was 7.4%. Viral-related RIH and RSVH rates were 44.4% (n = 24/54) and 1.9% (n = 1/54), respectively. Of the four RSV-positive children, one was ventilated for 9 days, two acquired nosocomial RSV that was managed on the ward, and one was discharged home under close complex care supervision. All four RSV-positive cases required additional oxygen during their illness. CMC experience a high viral-related RIH rate and palivizumab likely minimizes RSV-related events and associated morbidities. The efficacy of palivizumab in CMC, especially in those ≤ 3 years, should be prospectively evaluated.


Medical complexity Children Respiratory syncytial virus Palivizumab Outcomes 


Author’s contribution

AL, JD, LE, MLB, BP: conception and design, analysis and interpretation of data, drafting of article;

MLB, BP, AL: analysis and interpretation of data;

All: reviewed manuscript and facilitated revisions;

All: final approval of manuscript and assume public responsibility for the content.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

BP has received investigator initiated research funding and compensation as advisor or lecturer from AbbVie Corporation. The rest of the authors have no conflicts of interest to declare. No honorarium, grant, or other form of payment was received by any of the authors to produce the manuscript.

Ethical approval

The study was approved by The Hamilton Integrated Research Ethics Board, and patient consent was waived because of the anonymized, retrospective database study design.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Lim
    • 1
  • M. L. Butt
    • 1
    • 2
  • J. Dix
    • 3
  • L. Elliott
    • 3
  • B. Paes
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PediatricsMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  2. 2.School of NursingHamiltonCanada
  3. 3.McMaster Children’s HospitalHamiltonCanada

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