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Bull World Health Organ. 2000;78(11):1330-6.

Epidemiology of paediatric surgical admissions to a government referral hospital in the Gambia.

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Department of Surgery, Royal Victoria Hospital, Banjul, The Gambia.



There is a paucity of published data on the type of conditions that require surgery among children in sub-Saharan Africa. Such information is necessary for assessing the impact of such conditions on child health and for setting priorities to improve paediatric surgical care.


Described in the article is a 29-month prospective study of all children aged < 15 years who were admitted to a government referral hospital in the Gambia from January 1996 to May 1998.


A total of 1726 children were admitted with surgical problems. Surgical patients accounted for 11.3% of paediatric admissions and 34,625 total inpatient days. The most common admission diagnoses were injuries (46.9%), congenital anomalies (24.3%), and infections requiring surgery (14.5%). The diagnoses that accounted for the greatest number of inpatient days were burns (18.8%), osteomyelitis (15.4%), fractures (12.7%), soft tissue injuries (3.9%), and head injuries (3.4%). Gambian children were rarely admitted for appendicitis and never admitted for hypertrophic pyloric stenosis. The leading causes of surgical deaths were burns, congenital anomalies, and injuries other than burns.


Prevention of childhood injuries and better trauma management, especially at the primary and secondary health care levels, should be the priorities for improving paediatric surgical care in sub-Saharan Africa. Surgical care of children should be considered an essential component of child health programmes in developing countries.

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