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Hirschsprung disease in the U.S. associated Pacific Islands: more common than expected.

INTRODUCTION: Tripler Army Medical Center (TAMC) in Honolulu, Hawaii, is uniquely situated to serve patients from the United States Associated Pacific Islands (USAPIs) through the congressionally funded Pacific Island Health Care Project (PIHCP). Because of time differences and distance, a web-based store-and-forward consultation and referral network was established using the internet to more efficiently and economically facilitate patient care. Using both electronic and hard copy records, we sought to establish the incidence of Hirschsprung Disease (HD) in children from the USAPI and contrast it to that of the developed world.

METHODS: PIHCP website records as well as all the inpatient and outpatient medical records of patients referred to TAMC fortreatment of HD from 1994 to 2002 were reviewed. A diagnosis of HD was confirmed in all cases with full thickness biopsy. Incidence figures for HD are based on this review and on the birth rates for these islands from the International Data Base of the U.S. Bureau of the Census.

RESULTS: There were 14 cases of short-segment HD referred over a nine year study period. Nine patients came from the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) with an average annual incidence of 1:3190, which is 1.5 to 2 times the reported incidence in Western nations. Remarkably, seven of these nine were from Pohnpei State, capital of the FSM (annual incidence of 1:1370 or3-5 times that in the West). Three patients came from the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), and two came from American Samoa (AS). There were no reported consanguineous marriages, associated syndromes, or complications of surgery.

CONCLUSION: HD was found to be up to 2-3 times more common among people from the FSM than has been reported in the developed world. Given the limitations of providing care and obtaining data from all the USAPls with a population that is spread over a massive expanse of ocean larger than the continental United States, this incidence is likely an underestimation of HD among Pacific Islanders. A secure web-based referral network developed in 1998 has been invaluable in collecting epidemiologic data from these islands as well as in providing health care workers in the USAPI with an efficient and inexpensive means to seek consultation from specialists and sub-specialists at a major tertiary care medical facility.

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