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PLoS One

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Severe acute malnutrition (SAM) affects about 13 million under-five children (U5), with an estimated one million dying every year. In this study we aimed at determining the in hospital mortality and its associated factors among U5s admitted with SAM.


This was a prospective cohort study of children 6 months to 5 years with SAM admitted at Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital (MRRH) between June and August 2015. Care-takers were interviewed to collect socio-demographic and clinical information. Children under-went physical examination and had blood drawn for HIV, serum glucose, malaria, full blood count, culture and serum electrolytes investigation. Children were managed according to WHO treatment guidelines for SAM. All participants were followed up for a maximum period of 30 days. The proportion of U5 deaths within the first 48 hours and during the entire admission period was calculated. Using Poisson regression analysis, predictors of in-hospital mortality were analyzed with STATA/IC 11.0.


We enrolled 122 children, median age of 15 months [IQR:11–24], 58.2% males, 90% immunized, 81% ill for more than 2 weeks before admission, 71% from lower health facilities and majority with unknown HIV status(76%). Overall, 13 (10.7%) children died in hospital. Seven (5.7%) died within the first 48 hours. Intravenous (IV) fluid administration significantly predicted in-hospital mortality (adjusted IRR: 7.2, 95%CI: 2.14–24.08, p = 0.001).


The in-hospital mortality in U5s with SAM was lower than that previously reported in central Uganda. Intravenous fluid administration significantly predicted overall in-hospital mortality. While Administration of intravenous fluids is still the main stay of managing severely malnourished children with shock, more research needs to be conducted in order to review the parameters presently used to assess children for shock with a view of diagnosing and managing shock in these children when it is still early. Adequate guidance on use of IV fluids in management of severely malnourished children should be prioritized during continuous medical education for healthcare workers and in the treatment guidelines.


Published version. PLoS One, Vol. 15, No. 6 (June 26, 2020): e0234343. DOI. © 2020 Nduhukire et al. Used with permission.

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