Social, dietary and clinical correlates of oedema in children with severe acute malnutrition: a cross-sectional study

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BACKGROUND: Severe acute malnutrition is a serious public health problem, and a challenge to clinicians. Why some children with malnutrition develop oedema (kwashiorkor) is not well understood. The objective of this study was to investigate socio-demographic, dietary and clinical correlates of oedema, in children hospitalised with severe acute malnutrition.

METHODS: We recruited children with severe acute malnutrition admitted to Mulago Hospital, Uganda. Data was collected using questionnaires, clinical examination and measurement of blood haemoglobin, plasma c-reactive protein and α1-acid glycoprotein. Correlates of oedema were identified using multiple logistic regression analysis.

RESULTS: Of 120 children included, 77 (64%) presented with oedematous malnutrition. Oedematous children were slightly older (17.7 vs. 15.0 months, p = 0.006). After adjustment for age and sex, oedematous children were less likely to be breastfed (odds ratio (OR): 0.19, 95%-confidence interval (CI): 0.06; 0.59), to be HIV-infected (OR: 0.10, CI: 0.03; 0.41), to report cough (OR: 0.33, CI: 0.13; 0.82) and fever (OR: 0.22, CI: 0.09; 0.51), and to have axillary temperature > 37.5°C (OR: 0.28 CI: 0.11; 0.68). Household dietary diversity score was lower in children with oedema (OR: 0.58, CI: 0.40; 85). No association was found with plasma levels of acute phase proteins, household food insecurity or birth weight.

CONCLUSION: Children with oedematous malnutrition were less likely to be breastfed, less likely to have HIV infection and had fewer symptoms of other infections. Dietary diversity was lower in households of children who presented with oedema. Future research may confirm whether a causal relationship exists between these factors and nutritional oedema.

Original languageEnglish
Article number25
JournalB M C Pediatrics
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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