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An analysis of neonates with surgical diagnoses admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, South Africa

R T Saggers, D E Ballot, A Grieve

Abstract


Background. The burden of neonatal surgical conditions is not well documented in low- to middle-income countries (LMICs). These conditions are thought to be relatively common, with a considerable proportion of neonates admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) requiring surgical intervention.

Objectives. To review neonates with surgical conditions admitted to the NICU in our hospital setting.

Methods. This was a retrospective, descriptive study of neonates with surgical conditions admitted to the NICU at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital (CMJAH), South Africa, between 1 January 2013 and 31 December 2015. The characteristics and survival of these neonates were described using univariate analysis. The NICU at CMJAH is combined with a paediatric intensive care unit, to a total of 15 beds, and serves as a referral unit.

Results. Of 923 neonates admitted to the NICU, 319 (34.6%) had primarily surgical conditions. Of these 319 neonates, 205 survived (64.3%). There were 125/319 neonates (39.2%) with necrotising enterocolitis (NEC), 55 of whom survived (55/125; 44.0%), making the presence of NEC significantly associated with poor outcome (p<0.001). Other significant predictors of poor outcome were the patient being outborn (p=0.029); the presence of late-onset sepsis (p<0.001), with Gram-negative organisms (p=0.005); and lesser gestational age (p=0.001) and lower birth weight (p<0.001). Major birth defects were present in 166/319 neonates (52.0%). The abdomen was the most prevalent site of surgery, with 216/258 procedures (83.7%) being abdominal, resulting in a mortality rate of 76/216 (35.2%).

Conclusions. Neonates with major surgical conditions accounted for one-third of NICU admissions in the present study. The study highlights the considerable burden placed on paediatric surgical services at a large referral hospital in SA. Paediatric surgical services, with early referral and improvement of neonatal transport systems, must be a priority in planned healthcare interventions to reduce neonatal mortality in LMICs.


Authors' affiliations

R T Saggers, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital and Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

D E Ballot, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital and Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

A Grieve, Department of Paediatric Surgery, Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital and Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Keywords

Neonatal surgery; Mortality; Major birth defect; Low- and middle-income countries; South Africa

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2020;110(6):497-501. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2020.v110i6.14326

Article History

Date submitted: 2020-05-29
Date published: 2020-05-29

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