The main objectives of this study were to determine the effect of concurrent malnutrition on disease condition and the primary outcome of mortality in children younger than 5 years hospitalized after presenting to a rural emergency department (ED) in Uganda and to identify a high-risk patient population who may benefit from acute ED intervention.
A retrospective, observational study was performed to examine the effect of any form of malnutrition on the primary disease conditions of lower-respiratory tract infection (LRTI), malaria, and diarrheal illness. This study was conducted via review of a quality assurance database between January 2010 and July 2014.
Of 3428 hospitalized children, the mean age (SD) was 19.8 months (13.9 months) and 56% were boys. Children diagnosed with malaria, an LRTI, or diarrheal illness all had a higher rate of mortality with concurrent malnutrition versus those without malnutrition (malaria, 6.2% [3.6–8.8%] vs 2.8% [2.0–3.7%]; P < 0.01; LRTI, 8.7% [5.0–12.4%] vs. 3.7% [2.6–4.9%], P < 0.01; and diarrheal illness, 10.9% [1.9–19.9%] vs 1.7% [0.1–3.4%], P < 0.01). In children with an LRTI or malaria with concurrent malnutrition, they were statistically significantly less likely to have abnormal temperature and heart rate during the ED encounter than those without concurrent malnutrition.
Based on these results, children with malnutrition and concurrent diseases with known high morbidity may not present with abnormal vital signs. This may have clinical relevance in patient management to the acute care provider in identifying and triaging children with malnutrition and acute disease conditions.