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BACKGROUND: Dexamethasone has been shown to reduce mortality in patients with tuberculous meningitis but the long-term outcome of the disease is unknown. METHODS: Vietnamese adults and adolescents with tuberculous meningitis recruited to a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of adjunctive dexamethasone were followed-up at five years, to determine the effect of dexamethasone on long-term survival and neurological disability. RESULTS: 545 patients were randomised to receive either dexamethasone (274 patients) or placebo (271 patients). 50 patients (9.2%) were lost to follow-up at five years. In all patients two-year survival, probabilities tended to be higher in the dexamethasone arm (0.63 versus 0.55; p = 0.07) but five-year survival rates were similar (0.54 versus 0.51, p = 0.51) in both groups. In patients with grade 1 TBM, but not with grade 2 or grade 3 TBM, the benefit of dexamethasone treatment tended to persist over time (five-year survival probabilities 0.69 versus 0.55, p = 0.07) but there was no conclusive evidence of treatment effect heterogeneity by TBM grade (p = 0.36). The dexamethasone group had a similar proportion of severely disabled patients among survivors at five years as the placebo group (17/128, 13.2% vs. 17/116, 14.7%) and there was no significant association between dexamethasone treatment and disability status at five years (p = 0.32). CONCLUSIONS: Adjunctive dexamethasone appears to improve the probability of survival in patients with TBM, until at least two years of follow-up. We could not demonstrate a five-year survival benefit of dexamethasone treatment which may be confined to patients with grade 1 TBM. TRIAL REGISTRATION: NCT01317654.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Dexamethasone, Female, Follow-Up Studies, Humans, Kaplan-Meier Estimate, Male, Middle Aged, Proportional Hazards Models, Time Factors, Treatment Outcome, Tuberculosis, Meningeal, Vietnam, Young Adult