Challenges in managing paediatric osteomyelitis in the developing world: Analysis of cases presenting to a tertiary referral centre in Tanzania

Ali AM, Maya E, Lakhoo K
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The literature on paediatric osteomyelitis in the developing world is scarce, and there have been calls for further characterisation of its epidemiology and the identification of factors that limit effective management in order to guide local service delivery. Our centre is a hospital serving a population of 11 million people in Tanzania.


We identified patients <18 years admitted between 1 st January 2008 and 31 st December 2010 with a diagnosis ofosteomyelitis through a search of admission logbooks. Patient notes were reviewed for information regarding the nature of the presentation, treatment given and outcome, with the primary outcome measure being recurrence of infection at follow-up.


A total of 63 patients were identified, notes available for 55: 40 males and 15 females, mean age of 11 years. The most common sites were the tibia and femur with other sites including the skull, humerus and foot. At presentation, 8 cases were categorised as acute, 5 as acute with X-ray changes, 40 as chronic localised and 2 as chronic systemic.A total of 11 patients were treated with antibiotics only, 11 with incision and drainage and 30 with surgical debridement. Bacterial cultures were available in 11 cases. all Staphylococcus aureus tested were gentamicin-sensitive, but at least one patient had S. aureus resistant to cloxacillin, erythromycin, co-trimoxazole, tetracycline or a combination of these. Of 29 patients attending follow-up, 20 made a full recovery and 9 developed recurrence of infection. Eight out of nine with recurrence had time from symptom onset to presentation of >3 months. Twelve out of 13 with a time from symptom onset to presentation of <2 months did not develop recurrence.


This is, to the best of our knowledge, the second largest study of paediatric osteomyelitis in the developing world. Major challengesfacing this centre include a lack of availability of bacterial cultures and failure to attend follow-up. Delayed presentation of osteomyelitis to our centre is associated with recurrence of infection.