Background: Post-discharge mortality among children with severe illness in resource-limited settings is under-recognized and there are limited data. We evaluated post-discharge mortality in a recently reported cohort of children with severe malnutrition and pneumonia, and identified characteristics associated with an increased risk of death.
Methods: Young children (<5 years of age) with severe malnutrition (WHO criteria) and radiographic pneumonia on admission to Dhaka Hospital of icddr,b over a 15-month period were managed according to standard protocols. Those discharged were followed-up and survival status at 12 weeks post-discharge was determined. Verbal autopsy was requested from families of those that died.
Results: Of 405 children hospitalized with severe malnutrition and pneumonia, 369 (median age, 10 months) were discharged alive with a follow-up plan. Of these, 32 (8.7%) died in the community within 3 months of discharge: median 22 (IQR 9-35) days from discharge to death. Most deaths were reportedly associated with acute onset of new respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms. Those that died following discharge were significantly younger (median 6 [IQR 3,12] months) and more severely malnourished, on admission and on discharge, than those that survived. Bivariate analysis found that severe wasting on admission (OR 3.64, 95% CI 1.66-7.97) and age <12 months (OR 2.54, 95% CI 1.1-8.8) were significantly associated with post-discharge death. Of those that died in the community, none had attended a scheduled follow-up and care-seeking from a traditional healer was more common (p<0.001) compared to those who survived.
Conclusion and significance: Post-discharge mortality was common in Bangladeshi children following inpatient care for severe malnutrition and pneumonia. The underlying contributing factors require a better understanding to inform the potential of interventions that could improve survival.