X-Ray diagnosable pneumonia in children with severe malnutrition at Kenyatta National Hospital.
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OBJECTIVES: To estimate the prevalence of radiologically evident pneumonia among children with severe malnutrition and to evaluate the diagnostic utility of commonly used clinical indicators of pneumonia among children with severe malnutrition. METHODS: All children with severe malnutrition and admitted at the then Paediatric Observation Ward without congestive cardiac failure, severe anaemia, or severe dehydration, were clinically evaluated and a posteroanterior chest X-ray taken for each child. Pneumonia was diagnosed on the basis of radiological changes consistent with pneumonia as reported by an experienced radiologist. The performance of the various clinical parameters as diagnostic tests for pneumonia were also evaluated. SETTING: Kenyatta National Hospital, a tertiary level teaching institution for the University of Nairobi. RESULTS: One hundred and seven children comprising 68 males and 39 females were recruited into the study. Of these children, 38 had kwashiorkor, 40 had marasmus, while 29 had marasmic kwashiorkor. Radiological evidence of pneumonia was found in 58% of children with kwashiorkor, 75% with marasmic kwashiorkor, and 82% with marasmus. All the commonly used clinical parameters performed poorly as diagnostic tests for pneumonia among children with severe malnutrition. CONCLUSION: Prevalence of pneumonia was very high among children with severe malnutrition. Available clinical parameters, singly or in combination, are poor diagnostic tools for pneumonia in children with severe malnutrition. It is advisable to treat children with severe malnutrition as if they had pneumonia, even in the absence of suggestive clinical signs.