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Free Content Diagnosis of childhood tuberculosis in Malawi: an audit of hospital practice

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SETTING: All 44 non-private hospitals in Malawi that register and treat children with tuberculosis (TB).

OBJECTIVE: To determine 1) clinical features and diagnostic practices in children registered with TB, and 2) the use of the WHO score chart in diagnosis.

DESIGN: A cross-sectional study of all children aged 14 years or below in hospital receiving anti-tuberculosis treatment, using reviews of treatment cards, case files and chest X-rays and performing a clinical assessment.

RESULTS: There were 150 children, 98 with pulmonary TB (PTB) and 52 with extra-pulmonary TB (EPTB). The median duration of illness was 8 weeks. Most patients had fever, no response to anti-malarial treatment and antibiotics, and 40% had a family history of TB. Nearly 45% had weight for age <60%. Diagnosis was mainly based on clinical features and radiography, with less than 10% having tuberculin skin tests or HIV serology, and very few having other sophisticated investigations. A WHO diagnostic score chart was used in 13 (9%) patients by hospital staff. An independent assessment by the study team found that 61% of patients had a score of 7 or more; this was higher in EPTB than PTB patients.

CONCLUSION: Diagnostic practices in children with TB in Malawi are poor, and improvements should be made.
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Keywords: Malawi; childhood TB; diagnosis

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Academic Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands 2: Wellcome Trust Research Laboratories, Blantyre, Malawi 3: National Tuberculosis Control Programme, Ministry of Health, Lilongwe, Malawi

Publication date: 2002-05-01

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  • The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease publishes articles on all aspects of lung health, including public health-related issues such as training programmes, cost-benefit analysis, legislation, epidemiology, intervention studies and health systems research. The IJTLD is dedicated to the continuing education of physicians and health personnel and the dissemination of information on tuberculosis and lung health world-wide.

    Certain IJTLD articles are selected for translation into French, Spanish, Chinese or Russian. They are available on the Union website

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