The spectrum and burden of in-patient paediatric musculoskeletal diseases in Northern Tanzania

Paediatr Int Child Health. 2022 Feb;42(1):12-21. doi: 10.1080/20469047.2022.2062561. Epub 2022 Apr 22.


Background: Musculoskeletal diseases (MSD) are a major contributor to the global burden of disease and disability, and disproportionally affect low- and middle-income countries; however, there is a dearth of epidemiological data. Affected children often face increased morbidity, social isolation and economic hardship.

Aim: To assess the spectrum and burden of paediatric MSD in children aged 5-18 years admitted to a major referral hospital in Tanzania.

Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study of children aged 5-18 years admitted to Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC) whose initial diagnosis was recognised as a musculoskeletal condition by the International Classification of Diseases-10 between 1 January and 31 December 2017.

Results: During 2017, 163 cases of confirmed paediatric MSD were admitted to KCMC, representing 21.2% of all admissions of children aged 5-18 years (n = 769). Bone disease was the most common diagnosis. They comprised 106 (65.0%) traumatic fractures, 31 (19.0%) osteo-articular infections, 9 (5.5%) malunions and 3 (1.8%) pathological fractures. Congenital defects and rheumatic disease were relatively uncommon, accounting for only 6 (3.7%) and 4 (2.5%) MSD admissions, respectively.

Conclusion: The majority of cases of MSD were related to fractures, followed by osteo-articular infections, while recognised cases of rheumatic disease were rare. The study, although small, identified the sizeable burden and spectrum of paediatric MSD admitted to a hospital in Tanzania over a 12-month period and highlights the need for larger studies to inform the optimal allocation of health resources.

Abbreviation: CI: confidence interval; HIC: high-income countries; HIV: human immunodeficiency virus; ICD-10: International Classification of Diseases 10; IQR: interquartile range; JIA: juvenile idiopathic arthritis; KCMC: Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre; LMIC: low- and middle-income countries; MSD: musculoskeletal diseases: NAI: non-accidental injury; NIHR: National Institute for Health Research; PAFLAR: Paediatric Society of the African League Against Rheumatism; RTA: road traffic accidents; SCD: sickle cell disease; SLE: systemic lupus erythematosus; SSA: sub-Saharan Africa.

Keywords: Paediatric musculoskeletal disease; inpatient admissions; sub-Saharan Africa.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rheumatic Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Tanzania / epidemiology

Grants and funding

R. Walsh conducted the research as part of a Master of Research degree at Newcastle University. The research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) (17/63/35) using UK aid from the UK Government to support global health research. The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the UK Department of Health and Social Care