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Trop Med Int Health. 2001 Apr;6(4):305-8.

Brain damage after neonatal tetanus in a rural Kenyan hospital.

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Centre for Geographical Medicine Research (Coast), Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kilifi, Kenya.



Neonatal tetanus (NNT) is an important cause of mortality in resource poor countries, particularly sub-Saharan Africa. There are no reports of the long-term outcome of children who survive NNT in African hospitals.


In a retrospective study of children discharged from Kilifi District Hospital (KDH), Kenya with NNT, each child was linked with a comparative child (CC) in the community matched for age, sex and locality.


A total of 123 patients were admitted with NNT between 1992 and 1996, of whom 68% died. Twenty-three (59%) of the 39 survivors were traced in the community, 10 had moved away, six had died.


NNT survivors underwent a neurological and developmental examination and a questionnaire was administered to the parents about the behaviour of the child. A verbal autopsy was used to determine the cause of death in children who had died after discharge.


The head circumference of NNT survivors was significantly smaller than that of CC (P=0.037); eight children had microcephaly compared with one CC (P=0.011). NNT survivors had more problems with hand-eye co-ordination tasks (P=0.035), a lower summated developmental score (P=0.023) and more mild neurological abnormalities (P=0.008) than CC. Parents of NNT survivors reported more behavioural problems (P=0.02) than parents of CC.


Children who survive NNT have evidence of brain damage that manifests as microcephaly, mild neurological abnormalities, developmental impairment - particularly fine motor difficulties - and behaviour problems.

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