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Pattern, outcome and challenges of neonatal surgical cases in a tertiary teaching hospital.

BACKGROUND: Globally, the major causes of neonatal deaths are birth asphyxia, prematurity and severe infections. Little attention is paid to deaths contributed by surgically amenable conditions. This study was undertaken to determine the burden and types of surgical problems encountered in the neonatal period, their outcome and challenges encountered.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: This was a retrospective study. The case notes of all neonates admitted into the newborn unit of our centre between April 2002 and March 2010 with surgical conditions were retrieved and the following information extracted: Sex, diagnosis, age at presentation, surgical intervention and outcome.

RESULTS: Out of 7,401 neonates admitted within the study period, 460 (6.2%) had a surgical condition. Of the 1,657 babies that died within the same period, 196 (11.8%) of them were those with surgical conditions. Congenital abnormalities accounted for 408 (88.7%) of all the surgical cases. Intestinal obstruction 129 (31.6%), neural tube defects 101 (24.8%) and anterior abdominal wall defect 58 (14.2%) were the commonest congenital abnormalities, while fracture of the long bones following birth trauma 15 (28.8%) and perforated NEC 14 (26.9%) were the commonest acquired conditions. Surgery was performed in 166 (36.1%) and 98 (59%) had postoperative complications. Significantly, more deaths occurred in preterms than in term babies (P = 0.003) and in those delivered outside the hospital than in in-born babies (P = 0.02). The major cause of death was infection in 92 (47%).

CONCLUSION: Neonatal surgical conditions contributed significantly to both neonatal admissions and overall neonatal mortality and thus highlights the need for investments in newborn surgical care in developing countries.

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