Hypoxaemia prevalence and management among children and adults presenting to primary care facilities in Uganda: a prospective cohort study.
Graham, Hamish R.
Kitutu, Freddy Eric
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Hypoxaemia (low blood oxygen) is common among hospitalised patients, increasing risk of death five-fold and requiring prompt detection and treatment. However, we know little about hypoxaemia prevalence in primary care and the role for pulse oximetry and oxygen therapy. This study assessed the prevalence and management of hypoxaemia at primary care facilities in Uganda. Methods Prospective cohort study in 30 primary care facilities in Uganda, Feb-Apr 2021. Clinical data collectors assessed blood oxygen level (SpO2) of all acutely unwell children, adolescents, and adults, and followed up children aged under 15 years with SpO2<93% to determine subsequent care and outcome. Primary outcome: proportion of children under 5 years of age with severe hypoxaemia (SpO2<90%). Secondary outcomes: severe/moderate hypoxaemia (SpO2 90-93%) by age/sex/complaint. Results Among children U5, the prevalence of severe hypoxaemia was 1.3% (95% CI 0.9 to 2.1); an additional 4.9% (3.9 to 6.1) had moderate hypoxaemia. Performing pulse oximetry according to World Health Organization guidelines exclusively on children with respiratory complaints would have missed 14% (3/21) of severe hypoxaemia and 11% (6/55) of moderate hypoxaemia. Hypoxaemia prevalence was low among children 5-14 years (0.3% severe, 1.1% moderate) and adolescents/adults 15+ years (0.1% severe, 0.5% moderate). A minority (12/27, 44%) of severely hypoxaemic patients were referred; 3 (12%) received oxygen. Conclusion Hypoxaemia is common among acutely unwell children under five years of age presenting to Ugandan primary care facilities. Routine pulse oximetry has potential to improve referral, management and clinical outcomes. Effectiveness, acceptability, and feasibility of pulse oximetry and oxygen therapy for primary care should be investigated in implementation trials.
- Medical and Health Sciences