Neurological and developmental outcome of neonatal jaundice and sepsis in rural Kenya

Gordon AL, English M, Tumaini Dzombo J, Karisa M, Newton CR
Trop Med Int Health. 2005;10

Permenent descriptor

Neonatal jaundice (NJ) and sepsis are common causes of neonatal mortality in sub-Saharan Africa, but little is known about the long-term morbidity in this setting. This study aimed to describe the neurological and developmental sequelae of severe neonatal hyperbilirubinaemia and neonatal sepsis (NS) in a district hospital in rural Kenya. Twenty-three term infants with NJ [total serum bilirubin (TSB) >300 mumol/l] and 24 infants with a history of NS were identified from hospital records. These children were compared to 40 children from the community (CC) without neonatal problems. At ages 18-32 months, the children's neurological, motor and developmental status were assessed, and blood groups of the NJ and NS subjects and their mothers were determined. Ten (43%) of the NJ subjects were unable to sit and/or stand independently. The NJ subjects had significantly more neurological, motor and developmental difficulties and caused greater maternal concern than the CCs. Five (21%) of the NJ subjects had possible blood group incompatibility. The NS subjects had significantly more motor and eye-hand difficulties and maternal concerns expressed than the CCs. Severe NJ in term infants (of mainly non-haemolytic origin) was associated with a high prevalence of neurological and developmental sequelae at ages 18-32 months. The NS is also associated with neuro-developmental sequelae, but the pattern is different to those seen in NJ. Since NS is common in resource poor countries, this may be an important cause of neuro-developmental impairment in children living in this setting.