Ileus in children presenting with diarrhea and severe acute malnutrition: A chart review

PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2017 May 11;11(5):e0005603. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0005603. eCollection 2017 May.


Background: Severely malnourished children aged under five years requiring hospital admission for diarrheal illness frequently develop ileus during hospitalization with often fatal outcomes. However, there is no data on risk factors and outcome of ileus in such children. We intended to evaluate predictive factors for ileus during hospitalization and their outcomes.

Methodology/principal findings: This was a retrospective chart review that enrolled severely malnourished children under five years old with diarrhea, admitted to the Dhaka Hospital of the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh between April 2011 and August 2012. We used electronic database to have our chart abstraction from previously admitted children in the hospital. The clinical and laboratory characteristics of children with (cases = 45), and without ileus (controls = 261) were compared. Cases were first identified by observation of abnormal bowel sounds on physical examination and confirmed with abdominal radiographs. For this comparison, Chi-square test was used to measure the difference in proportion, Student's t-test to calculate the difference in mean for normally distributed data and Mann-Whitney test for data that were not normally distributed. Finally, in identifying independent risk factors for ileus, logistical regression analysis was performed. Ileus was defined if a child developed abdominal distension and had hyperactive or sluggish or absent bowel sound and a radiologic evidence of abdominal gas-fluid level during hospitalization. Logistic regression analysis adjusting for potential confounders revealed that the independent risk factors for admission for ileus were reluctance to feed (odds ratio [OR] = 3.22, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.24-8.39, p = 0.02), septic shock (OR = 3.62, 95% CI = 1.247-8.95, p<0.01), and hypokalemia (OR = 1.99, 95% CI = 1.03-3.86, p = 0.04). Mortality was significantly higher in cases compared to controls (22% vs. 8%, p<0.01) in univariate analysis; however, in multivariable regression analysis, after adjusting for potential confounders such as septic shock, no association was found between ileus and death (OR = 2.05, 95% CI = 0.68-6.14, p = 0.20). In a separate regression analysis model, after adjusting for potential confounders such as ileus, reluctance to feed, hypokalemia, hypocalcemia, and blood transfusion, septic shock (OR = 168.84, 95% CI = 19.27-1479.17, p<0.01) emerged as the only independent predictor of death in severely malnourished diarrheal children.

Conclusions/significance: This study suggests that the identification of simple independent admission risk factors for ileus and risk factors for death in hospitalized severely malnourished diarrheal children may prompt clinicians to be more vigilant in managing these conditions, especially in resource-limited settings in order to decrease ileus and ileus-related fatal outcomes in such children.

MeSH terms

  • Bangladesh
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diarrhea / complications*
  • Diarrhea / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ileus / etiology*
  • Ileus / pathology*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Severe Acute Malnutrition / complications*
  • Severe Acute Malnutrition / pathology*

Grants and funding

This research study was funded by the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b; grant no Gr- 00233) and its donors, which provide unrestricted support to icddr,b for its operations and research. Current donors providing unrestricted support include: Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh; Global Affairs Canada (GAC), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the Department for International Development (UK Aid). We gratefully acknowledge the donors for their support and commitment to icddr,b's research efforts. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.