Acute abdominal emergency due to infectious enteritis: an observational study comparing Campylobacter spp. to other enteric pathogens in children

Swiss Med Wkly. 2022 Mar 3;152:w30113. doi: 10.4414/smw.2022.w30113. eCollection 2022 Feb 28.


Background: Campylobacter spp. are a frequent cause of gastroenteritis, presenting in some patients as an acute abdominal emergency. Here we describe the distinctive clinical characteristics of these patients.

Methods: We designed a retrospective, single-centre, observational study. Children and adolescents under 18 years of age who had positive stool cultures for Campylobacter spp. during the period between June 1, 2008 and May 31, 2016 were identified from our database. Hospitalised patients with Campylobacter spp. were then matched for age and gender with patients hospitalised for gastroenteritis of other or unknown aetiology. Patients who had undergone abdominal radiographic investigation or had received a surgery consultation were included as "acute abdomen" (AA) cases. Demographics, clinical characteristics and management were compared between AA and non-AA cases.

Results: One hundred and forty-one patients with cultures positive for Campylobacter spp. were included in the analysis. Nineteen patients were identified as AA cases. Fewer of these had diarrhoea (14/19, 74% vs 117/121, 97%; p = 0.02) and more reported a lower sense of general wellbeing (8/18, 44% vs 8/108, 7%; p <0.001). Localised pain (9/18, 50% vs 20/115, 17%; p = 0.002) and abdominal tenderness (2/18, 11% vs 0/111; p = 0.02) were also more common among AA cases. Forty-four patients with Campylobacter spp. infections were hospitalised and matched with 44 patients with gastroenteritis of other or unknown aetiology. Campylobacter spp. infection (risk ratio 3.6, 95% CI 1.3-9.7; p = 0.01) was positively correlated with being seen by a surgeon and/or a prescription for radiological examination.

Conclusions: We identified a subset of patients with Campylobacter spp. gastroenteritis who present as an acute abdominal emergency. The presentation of these patients was characterised mainly by the nature of the associated abdominal pain.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Campylobacter Infections* / complications
  • Campylobacter*
  • Child
  • Diarrhea
  • Enteritis* / complications
  • Gastroenteritis* / complications
  • Humans
  • Retrospective Studies