Scielo RSS <![CDATA[SAMJ: South African Medical Journal]]> vol. 107 num. 10 lang. en <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> <![CDATA[<b>Reversing disease</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>An approach to anaemia diagnosis - concerns in primary care</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>30 days in medicine</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>Accident</b> <b>By Dawn Garisch</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>Introduction of the contraceptive implant in South Africa: Successes, challenges and the way forward</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>User perspectives on Implanon NXT in South Africa: A survey of 12 public-sector facilities</b>]]> BACKGROUND. Implanon NXT, a long-acting reversible contraceptive, was introduced in South Africa (SA) in early 2014, aiming to expand the method mix and increase its effectiveness. Initial uptake was high, but has since declined considerably. In these early years after the implant's introduction, it is important to identify reasons for the decline, and remedy gaps in services. OBJECTIVES. To determine periods of use, reasons for the use and early removal of the implant Implanon NXT. METHODS. In 2016, we recruited 152 women from six clinics in the City of Johannesburg, and six in North West Province, SA. A semi-structured interview was administered to 91 women currently using the implant and 61 previous users. We examined user perspectives, factors influencing women's experiences with the implant and reasons for discontinuation. RESULTS. The participants' mean age was 30 years, with only 15% aged <25. Implant uptake was motivated by convenience (less frequent visits required than for short-acting methods) and by favourable views of the method among friends, family and healthcare providers. Only about a quarter of women recalled being counselled pre-insertion about implant effectiveness, and half about side-effects pre-insertion. Among discontinuers, the median time to device removal was 8 months (interquartile range 6 - 12), and this was primarily as a result of side-effects (90%), especially bleeding-pattern changes and headaches. Removals were most common among married and cohabiting women, often ascribed to the effects of bleeding on their sexual relationships. Rumours and misinformation contributed to some removals. Overall, women's experiences with the implant were rated 'good' or 'very good' by 74% of those continuing use, many of whom reported not having experienced any side-effects or that these had diminished over time. CONCLUSION. Levels of acceptability among continuing users were high, mainly linked to the method's convenience. While early favourable views drove uptake, negative perceptions, if unaddressed, may now undermine services. Deficiencies in counselling around effectiveness and side-effects may extend to contraceptive services more generally. Women require more intensive support when experiencing side-effects, including effective systematic approaches to ameliorating bleeding and headaches. Implant services could specifically target young women and first-time contraceptive users. These actions together could reverse the persistent decline in implant use in SA. <![CDATA[<b>Uptake and early removals of Implanon NXT in South Africa: Perceptions and attitudes of healthcare workers</b>]]> BACKGROUND. The South African (SA) government introduced Implanon NXT, a long-acting subdermal contraceptive implant, in 2014 to expand contraceptive choice. Following an initial high uptake, its use declined considerably amid reports of early removals and frequent side-effects. We examine providers' perceptions of training and attitudes towards Implanon NXT, as well as their views on the causes of early removals and the impact on the implant service. OBJECTIVE. To assess healthcare providers' perceptions and attitudes towards implant services in SA. METHODS. In-depth interviews were conducted with eight nurses providing implant services in public facilities in Gauteng and North West Province. Emerging themes were identified, manually coded and thematically analysed following an interpretivism approach. RESULTS. Nurses lacked confidence in providing implant services effectively, particularly removals, which they ascribed to the brief, cascade-type training received. Nurses generally held negative views towards the method. They also reported that side-effects are the most common reason for early removals - particularly irregular bleeding - and that men often do not support their partners who use the method. Lastly, it was found that providers require guidance on counselling regarding the method and standardised guidelines on the management of side-effects. CONCLUSION. Retraining and support of providers are needed to address competency gaps and negative attitudes towards the method. Assessment of providers' readiness to perform removal procedures is also important. Finally, effective plans are necessary to improve implant continuation rates, especially among women whose partners are unsupportive. <![CDATA[<b>Gaps in monitoring systems for Implanon NXT services in South Africa: An assessment of12 facilities in two districts</b>]]> BACKGROUND. Implanon NXT, a long-acting subdermal contraceptive implant, was introduced in South Africa (SA) in early 2014 as part of an expanded contraceptive method mix. After initial high levels of uptake, reports emerged of frequent early removals and declines in use. Monitoring of progress and challenges in implant service delivery could identify aspects of the programme that require strengthening. OBJECTIVES. To assess data management and record keeping within implant services at primary care facilities. METHODS. We developed a checklist to assess the tools used for monitoring implant services and data reporting to district offices. The checklist was piloted in seven facilities. An additional six high-volume and six low-volume implant insertion clinics in the City of Johannesburg (CoJ), Gauteng Province, and the Dr Kenneth Kaunda District, North West Province, were selected for assessment. RESULTS. All 12 facilities completed a Daily Head Count Register, which tallied the number of clients attending the clinic, but not information about implant use. A more detailed Tick Register recorded services that clinic attendees received, with nine documenting number of implant insertions and six implant removals. A more specific tool, an Insertion Checklist, collected data on insertion procedures and client characteristics, but was only used in CoJ (five of six facilities). Other registers, which were developed de novo by staff at individual facilities, captured more detailed information about insertions and removals, including reasons. Five of six low-volume insertion facilities used these registers, but only three of six high-volume facilities. No facilities used the form specifically developed by the National Department of Health for implant pharmacovigilance. Nine of 12 clinics reported data on numbers of insertions to the district office, six reported removals and none provided data on reasons for removals. CONCLUSION. For data to inform effective decision-making and quality improvement in implant services in SA, standardised reporting guidelines and data collection tools are needed, reinforced by staff training and quality assessment of data collection. Staff often took the initiative to fill gaps in reporting systems. Current systems are unable to accurately monitor uptake or discontinuation, or identify aspects of services requiring strengthening. Lack of pharmacovigilance data is especially concerning. Deficiencies noted in these monitoring systems may be common to family planning services more broadly, which warrants investigation. <![CDATA[<b>'Best buys' for surgery in South Africa</b>]]> Improving access to basic surgical interventions has great potential to improve the length and quality of life of many people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). However, research has shown that current access to surgical interventions is limited, and initiatives such as the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery 2030 advocate for improved access to basic surgical interventions for all. As the needs, health system context and available budgets in each country will be different, a critical component of effective local scale-up of surgical interventions will be to use tools and processes of health technology assessment (HTA). HTA has traditionally been used in high-income countries to make decisions about which medicines and devices should be available in a health system, but its central concepts, such as assessing clinical effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and feasibility, appraising all available evidence, and incorporating wider health systems objectives in decision-making, can be applied to decisons about how LMICs can best utilise basic surgical interventions from within available resources - in essence, to focus spending on the 'best buys'. As South Africa (SA) moves towards National Health Insurance (NHI), HTA functions will be strengthened. There is potential for SA to lead the practice of application of HTA to decisions about how basic surgical interventions are chosen and implemented, contributing to the success and sustainability of NHI in SA and the health of people in LMICs worldwide. <![CDATA[<b>Exploring the barriers to implementing National Health Insurance in South Africa: The people's perspective</b>]]> This article explores the challenges of implementing the proposed National Health Insurance for South Africa (SA), based on the six building blocks of the World Health Organization Health System Framework. In the context of the current SA health system, leadership, finance, workforce, technologies, information and service delivery are explored from the perspective of the people at ground level. Through considerations such as these, the universal health coverage goals of health equity, efficiency, responsiveness and financial risk protection, might be realised. <![CDATA[<b>Evaluating 5 years' NIMART mentoring in South Africa's HIV treatment programme: Successes, challenges and future needs</b>]]> Task shifting has enabled South Africa (SA) to rapidly expand its HIV treatment programme. This has been achieved by training and mentoring primary-care nurses in nurse initiation and management of antiretroviral therapy (NIMART). Five years into its clinical mentoring programme, the Foundation for Professional Development conducted an evaluation that identified improved knowledge, attitudes and confidence perceived by nurses who received NIMART mentoring. Low completion rates for the Department of Health (DoH) NIMART training process were identified and therefore targeted mentoring was introduced; this increased the percentage of primary nurses eligible for DoH certificates of clinical competence in NIMART from 12%, adding a further 30%. There remain a large number of primary nurses who require mentoring in order to complete the NIMART process. For those who have completed the process, there remains a need for ongoing mentoring as SA's HIV programme evolves, complex cases emerge and primary care undergoes change. <![CDATA[<b>Cytomegalovirus retinitis and HIV: Case reviews from KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa</b>]]> BACKGROUND. Retinal cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection is a common opportunistic infection and remains a significant contributor to visual loss in patients with AIDS. We highlight the poor outcomes of CMV retinitis in three HIV-infected patients who were initiated on antiretroviral therapy (ART). We conducted a retrospective chart review of advanced stage HIV-infected patients with known CMV retinitis. CASE 1. A 37-year-old man, with a CD4+ cell count of 35 cells/uL, presented for ART initiation with a 5-month history of visual loss in his left eye. Fundoscopy showed left eye CMV retinitis and right eye HIV retinopathy. ART and 5 months of weekly intravitreal ganciclovir injections (left eye) were commenced. Six-month outcomes included virological suppression, and visual acuity in the right eye of 6/6 and in the left eye of 3/60. CASE 2. A 31-year-old woman, with a CD4+ cell count of 39 cells/uL and on tuberculosis therapy, presented for ART initiation. She presented with a 2-month history of decreased visual acuity. Fundoscopy showed bilateral CMV retinitis, which was more pronounced in the left eye. ART and 8 months of intravitreal ganciclovir injections were commenced. Six-month outcomes included virological suppression and visual acuity in the right eye of 6/9, and in the left eye of 6/24. CASE 3. A 29-year-old woman, with a CD4+ cell count of 24 cells/uL, who was on tuberculosis therapy and ART, complained of blurred vision at her 2-month ART follow-up visit. Fundoscopy showed bilateral retinal detachment secondary to CMV retinitis. While silicone oil tamponade and subsequent retinectomy successfully repaired the right eye, extensive damage rendered the left eye irreparable. Six-month outcomes included virological suppression, with 6/120 visual acuity in the right eye and complete blindness in the left eye. CONCLUSION. CMV retinitis causes debilitating, permanent sequelae, which is preventable by ART initiation at higher CD4+ cell counts. Despite achieving virological suppression, vision could not be completely restored in these patients, irrespective of the severity of CMV retinitis. <![CDATA[<b>Protection of the human research participant: A structured review</b>]]> The history of health research, and concerns about the protection of human participants, dates back as far as the 1800s. The regulation, legislation and ethics-review requirements regarding the protection of the human research participants cause lively debates among researchers and scientists. The objective of this article is to share the findings of a structured review that was aimed at investigating the impact of and challenges with regard to the legislation, governance and research regulations aimed at protecting human research participants. The thematic analysis of the findings revealed dissatisfaction with diverse operational practices; different legislation and regulation practices; and institutional governance. Simplified and universally agreed-upon regulations and operational practices are needed, as is a common understanding of all concepts relating to ethical research conduct. <![CDATA[<b>Diagnostic accuracy of GeneXpert MTB/RIF in musculoskeletal tuberculosis: High sensitivity in tissue samples of HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected patients</b>]]> BACKGROUND. GeneXpert MTB/RIF is useful for the diagnosis of pulmonary TB in adults, but there is limited evidence on its usefulness in extrapulmonary TB. OBJECTIVES. To investigate the diagnostic accuracy of GeneXpert MTB/RIF in HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected patients with suspected musculoskeletal TB. METHODS. A prospective study of patients with suspected musculoskeletal (bone and joint) TB was undertaken. The diagnostic accuracy of GeneXpert MTB/RIF was compared with the reference standards of culture and histopathology. RESULTS. A total of 206 biopsies from 201 patients (23% HIV-infected) were evaluated. The sensitivity and specificity of GeneXpert MTB/ RIF was 92.3% (84/91) and 99.1% (114/115), respectively. GeneXpert MTB/RIF detected 8.8% more cases than culture (84/91 (92.3%) v. 76/91 (83.5%), respectively; p=0.069). GeneXpert MTB/RIF also detected all 4 multidrug-resistant TB cases and an additional 2 rifampicin-resistant cases in culture-negative samples. The sensitivity of GeneXpert MTB/RIF in HIV-infected patients was 96.9% (31/32) v. 89.6% (43/48) in HIV-uninfected patients (p=0.225). CONCLUSION. GeneXpert MTB/RIF is an accurate test for the detection of TB in tissue samples of HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected patients with suspected musculoskeletal TB. A positive GeneXpert MTB/RIF result should be regarded as microbiological confirmation of TB. <![CDATA[<b>Deep-vein thrombosis in the era of high HIV and tuberculosis prevalence: A prospective review of its diagnosis and treatment in a quaternary centre</b>]]> BACKGROUND. Venous thromboembolic disease (VTE) is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. HIV and tuberculosis (TB) infections have an aetiological association with VTE. Implementation of national HIV and TB programmes in South Africa (SA) has changed the burden of these two conditions, with resultant effects on VTE prevalence. Furthermore, with the increased use of direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs), baseline thrombosis data are needed to evaluate the effect of these new agents. OBJECTIVES. To determine real-life baseline VTE characteristics in a pre-DOAC era, and to document the association of HIV and TB infections with VTE. METHODS. This was a single-centre prospective cohort study performed in a quaternary care centre at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, SA. Key inclusion criteria included signed informed consent by adults (>18 years) with a new episode of thrombosis. Procedures included physical examination, thrombosis risk factor assessment, duplex Doppler examination, thrombophilia screening, inpatient treatment and outpatient follow-up. RESULTS. Ninety-nine participants with confirmed thrombosis met the inclusion criteria. Participants were predominantly black (79.8%) and female (64.6%), with a median age of 46 (interquartile range (IQR) 38 - 57) years. The prevalences of HIV and TB were 53.0% and 21.2%, respectively. The most common risk factors for thrombosis were TB (17.2%) and malignancies (14.1%). Thrombophilia screening had a low diagnostic yield. The median time to target international normalised ratio during hospitalisation was 5.5 (IQR 4.0 - 7.0) days and the median duration of hospitalisation was 9 (IQR 7 - 11) days. The overall mortality rate in the cohort at 3 months post hospitalisation was 12.1%. CONCLUSIONS. This prospective study provides real-life data on thrombosis diagnosis and management at a quaternary public healthcare facility, providing a valuable baseline against which the effect of new DOAC anticoagulants can be assessed. Further research is required to clarify the aetiological association between thrombosis and HIV and TB. <![CDATA[<b>Male involvement in prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in the context of partner testing in Goba town, Ethiopia: A facility-based cross-sectional study</b>]]> BACKGROUND. Antenatal care (ANC) is an entry point for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), particularly when a man accompanies his spouse for voluntary counselling and testing (VCT), even though this seldom happens in Ethiopia. OBJECTIVE. To study the role of male partners in improving PMTCT/ANC, which is essential to prevent HIV/AIDS transmission in this country. Our study focused on identifying barriers for the low involvement in PMTCT/ANC among male partners whose spouses received ANC. METHODS. A total of 422 male partners in Goba town, Oromia regional state, Ethiopia, were recruited in September - October 2014 and enrolled by a systematic sampling method. A facility-based cross-sectional study and two focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted. Binary logistic regression and odds ratios were calculated to ascertain sociodemographic and other important information compared with the outcome variable and PMTCT/ANC, while the findings of the FGDs were grouped according to the emerging themes and analysed manually by means of a thematic approach. RESULTS. The percentage of male partners (22.7%) accompanying their spouses for HIV testing and counselling at antenatal clinics improved three-fold when an invitation letter was introduced as a new initiative to increase male participation. Individuals in the age group 15 - 29 years (adjusted odds ratio (AOR) 5.4, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.66 - 17.85), and whose duration of marriage was <5 years (AOR 5.6, 95% CI 1.83 -17.30), were more likely to be tested than their referent groups. Men without a higher education (AOR 0.1, 95% CI 0.02 - 0.50), who disagreed with legal enforcement (AOR 0.1, 95% CI 0.07 - 0.32), were less likely to be tested, while those who did not notify their partners (AOR 8.4, 95% CI 1.92 - 37.12) were more likely to use the service. Being busy, proxy testing, fears of testing HIV-positive, neglecting the importance of VCT, and inadequate knowledge about the PMTCT/ANC programme were other barriers that came to the fore in the FGDs. CONCLUSION. Identified barriers have to be addressed, and helpful practices, such as using invitation letters to increase the uptake of the service by male partners, have to be instituted. <![CDATA[<b>Survival of patients with Kaposi's sarcoma in the South African antiretroviral treatment era: A retrospective cohort study</b>]]> BACKGROUND. When South Africa (SA) implemented its antiretroviral therapy (ART) programme in 2004, the model for treating HIV-positive Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) patients shifted from symptomatic palliation to potential cure. OBJECTIVE. To evaluate survival and changes over time in AIDS-KS patients treated at a tertiary academic hospital oncology unit (the Steve Biko Academic Hospital medical oncology unit) in Pretoria, SA, in the context of ART availability in SA. METHODS. We conducted a retrospective review of electronic and paper records of KS patients who accessed cancer care between May 2004 and September 2012. We used Kaplan-Meier survival functions to estimate 1- and 2-year survival, and Cox regression models to identify changes over time and prognostic factors. RESULTS. Our study included 357 AIDS-KS patients, almost all of whom were black Africans (n=353, 98.9%); 224 (62.7%) were men. The median age at cancer diagnosis was 37 (interquartile range (IQR) 30 - 43) years, and the median baseline CD4+ count was 242 (IQR 130 -403) cells/μL. Most patients received ART (n=332, 93.0%) before or after KS diagnosis; 169 (47.3%) were treated with chemotherapy and 209 (58.6%) with radiation therapy. Mortality was 62.7% lower (adjusted hazard ratio (HR) 0.37, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.19 - 0.73) in the late (2009 - 2012) than in the early (2004 - 2008) ART period. Receiving chemotherapy (adjusted HR 0.3, 95% CI 0.15 - 0.61) and poor-risk AIDS Clinical Trials Group KS stage (adjusted HR 2.88, 95% CI 1.36 - 6.09) predicted mortality. CONCLUSIONS. Our results show that large national ART roll-out programmes can successfully reduce KS-related mortality at the individual patient level. If ART coverage is extended, KS-associated morbidity and mortality are likely to drop. <![CDATA[<b>HIV-positive patients in the intensive care unit: A retrospective audit</b>]]> BACKGROUND. The indications for and outcomes of intensive care unit (ICU) admission of HIV-positive patients in resource-poor settings such as sub-Saharan Africa are unknown. OBJECTIVE. To identify indications for ICU admission and determine factors associated with high ICU and hospital mortality in HIV-positive patients. METHODS. We reviewed case records of HIV-positive patients admitted to the medical and surgical ICUs at Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa, from 1 January 2012 to 31 December 2012. RESULTS. Seventy-seven HIV-positive patients were admitted to an ICU, of whom two were aged <18 years and were excluded from the final analysis. HIV infection was newly diagnosed in 37.3% of the patients admitted during the study period. HIV-positive patients had a median CD4 count of 232.5 (interquartile range 59 - 459) cells/μL. Respiratory illness, mainly community-acquired pneumonia, accounted for 30.7% of ICU admissions. ICU and hospital mortality rates were 25.3% and 34.7%, respectively. Predictors of ICU mortality included an Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II (APACHE II) score &gt;13 (odds ratio (OR) 1.4, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.1 - 1.7; p=0.015), receipt of renal replacement therapy (RRT) (OR 2.2, 95% CI 1.2 - 4.1; p=0.018) and receipt of inotropes (OR 2.3, 95% CI 1.6 - 3.4; p<0.001). Predictors of hospital mortality were severe sepsis on admission (OR 2.8, 95% CI 0.9 - 9.1; p=0.07), receipt of RRT (OR 1.9, 95% CI 1.0 - 3.6; p=0.056) and receipt of inotropic support (OR 2.0, 95% CI 1.4 - 3.2; p<0.001). Use of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), CD4 count, detectable HIV viral load and diagnosis at ICU admission did not predict ICU or hospital mortality. CONCLUSIONS. Respiratory illnesses remain the main indication for ICU in HIV-positive patients. HIV infection is often diagnosed late, with patients presenting with life-threatening illnesses. Severity of illness as indicated by a high APACHE II score, multiple organ dysfunction requiring inotropic support and RRT, rather than receipt of HAART, CD4 count and diagnosis at ICU admission, are predictors of ICU and hospital mortality. <![CDATA[<b>Distribution of hepatitis B virus infection in Namibia</b>]]> BACKGROUND. Namibia regards hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection as a public health problem and introduced hepatitis B vaccinations for infants during 2009. However, information on HBV infection in the country remains limited, and effective public health interventions may be compromised in the absence of adequate evidence-based data. Available data from the World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that 15 - 60% of the normal population in many African countries may be positive for one or more of the HBV serological markers. OBJECTIVE. To investigate the distribution of HBV infection in Namibia, using available laboratory data for 2013. METHODS. A cross-sectional descriptive study was conducted using pre-existing electronic laboratory data on HBV infection. The data were retrieved from the central Namibia Institute of Pathology laboratory in Windhoek during January - December 2013. Tests were done on the following three main groups: (i) pregnant women during routine antenatal care (ANC) visits; (ii) patients with HIV/AIDS during antiretroviral therapy clinic visits; and (iii) any other individual suspected of having HBV infection. RESULTS. Of a total of 77 238 hepatitis B surface antigen test results retrieved countrywide, 9 087 (11.8%) were positive. Of the positive results, 246/9 087 (2.7%) were in children aged 0 - 14 years, with the sexes equally affected. HBV infections increased markedly, particularly among females, in the age group 15 - 39 years, reaching a peak in the age group 30 - 34 years. Routine screening of pregnant women for HBV during ANC visits was found to be systematically conducted in only two regions, Ohangwena and Khomas. CONCLUSIONS. This study showed high proportions of positive results in pregnant women, patients with HIV/AIDS and individuals suspected of having HBV infection. The Ministry of Health and Social Services and stakeholders may wish to consider improving the routine and surveillance reporting systems for viral hepatitis and uptake of screening for pregnant women in all regions, and expanding HBV screening to other population groups. Population-based or similar studies are therefore required to determine the HBV prevalence and risk factors. This will assist Namibia in developing appropriate national viral hepatitis strategies as per WHO recommendations. <![CDATA[<b>Therapeutic drug monitoring of amlodipine and the Z-FHL/HHL ratio: Adherence tools in patients referred for apparent treatment-resistant hypertension</b>]]> BACKGROUND. Non-adherence to antihypertensives is a cause of 'pseudo-treatment-resistant' hypertension. OBJECTIVE. To determine whether monitoring plasma amlodipine concentrations and inhibition of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) can be adjunct adherence tools. METHODS. Patients with hypertension who were prescribed enalapril and amlodipine were enrolled. Blood pressures (BPs) were monitored and an adherence questionnaire was completed. Steady-state amlodipine was assayed using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry and degree of ACE inhibition using the Z-FHL/HHL (z-phenylalanine-histidine-leucine/hippuryl-histidine-leucine) ratio. RESULTS. One hundred patients (mean (standard deviation) age 50.5 (12) years, 46% male) were enrolled. Based on plasma assays, 26/97 patients (26.8%) were unsuppressed by enalapril and 20/100 (20%) were sub-therapeutic for amlodipine. There were significant BP differences based on plasma levels of the medication: 21/20 mmHg lower in the group with suppressed ACE and 26/20 mmHg in the group with steady-state amlodipine concentrations. CONCLUSIONS. Monitoring antihypertensive adherence by assaying plasma medication concentrations is a feasible option for evaluating true v. pseudo-resistant hypertension. <![CDATA[<b>Gender disparities in pulmonary hypertension at a tertiary centre in Cameroon</b>]]> BACKGROUND. Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a potent cause of heart failure and has been little investigated in the African setting. OBJECTIVE. To investigate the effects of gender on the clinical presentation, echocardiographic features and outcomes of patients with PH in Douala, Cameroon. METHODS. A prospective cohort study was conducted from March 2012 to December 2013 as part of the Pan African Pulmonary Hypertension Cohort study. PH was diagnosed by echocardiography and defined as a right ventricular systolic pressure &gt;35 mmHg in the absence of acute right heart failure. Patients were followed up for a maximum of 12 months for primary endpoint mortality. RESULTS. In total, 130 patients with PH were recruited; 71 (54.6%) were women. The median age was 59.2 years for men and 58.3 years for women (p=0.76). Active smoking and alcohol use were more frequent in men than women (both p<0.001), but women had greater exposure to indoor cooking fumes than men (p<0.001). Previous tuberculosis infection (11.3% v. 1.7%) and S3 gallop rhythm (30.9% v. 11.9%) were more common in women (both p<0.03). Women had a significantly higher mean systolic blood pressure (134 mmHg v. 125 mmHg; p=0.04) and pulse pressure (53.8 mmHg v. 44.9 mmHg; p=0.01) and a lower mean haemoglobin concentration (10.4 g/dL v. 12.4 g/dL; p<0.05) compared with men. Echocardiographic left ventricular (LV) systolic dysfunction was more frequent in men: mean LV ejection fraction 42.6% v. 51.5% (p=0.01) and mean fractional shortening 21.4% v. 28.6% (p=0.01). The overall mortality rate was 20.3%, and rates were similar in the two groups (Kaplan-Meier log rank 1.1; p=0.30). CONCLUSIONS. Despite differences in baseline characteristics including cardiovascular risk factors, mortality rates on follow-up were similar in men and women in this study. However, these different baseline characteristics probably suggest differences in the pathogenesis of PH in men and women in our setting that need further investigation. <![CDATA[<b>Short-term outcomes of inborn v. outborn very-low-birth-weight neonates (<1 500 g) in the neonatal nursery at Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa</b>]]> BACKGROUND. The Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH) neonatal nursery provides level 3 care for the Metro West Health District in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. Worldwide, very-low-birth-weight (VLBW) neonates delivered in level 3 neonatal units have better outcomes than those transported from other facilities. OBJECTIVES. To identify the characteristics and outcomes of VLBW neonates at GSH, with emphasis on differences between inborns and outborns. METHODS. This was a retrospective cohort study. VLBW neonates admitted to the GSH neonatal nursery between 1 January 2012 and 31 December 2013 were enrolled on the Vermont Oxford Network database and reviewed. RESULTS. Of 1 032 VLBW neonates enrolled, 906 (87.8%) were delivered at GSH and 126 (12.2%) were outborn. Access to antenatal care, antenatal steroids and inborn status were statistically significant predictors of mortality and survival without morbidity. The mothers of inborn patients were more likely than those of outborn patients to have received antenatal care (89.1% v. 57.9%; p<0.0001) and antenatal steroids (64.2% v. 15.2%; p<0.0001). Inborns required less ventilatory support (16.2% v. 57.9%; p<0.0001) and surfactant administration than outborns (25.3% v. 65.1%; p<0.0001), and developed less late infection (8.8% v. 23.4%; p<0.0001), severe intraventricular haemorrhage (3.7% v. 13.9%; p<0.0001) and chronic lung disease (5.3% v. 13.4%; p=0.003). The incidence of necrotising enterocolitis was similar in the two groups (5.9% v. 8.7%; p=0.227). The mortality rate was 18.4% for inborns and 33.3% for outborns (p<0.0001). Mortality declined as birth weight increased. Of the survivors, 85.0% of inborns and 70.2% of outborns did not develop serious morbidity (p=0.003). CONCLUSIONS. VLBW neonates delivered at GSH had better outcomes than their outborn counterparts. Perinatal regionalisation is beneficial to our patients, with antenatal care, timeous transfer in utero and antenatal steroids contributing to excellent outcomes. <![CDATA[<b>Respiratory comorbidity in South African children with atopic dermatitis</b>]]> BACKGROUND. Atopic dermatitis (AD) is an early and important step in the propagation of the allergic march, enhancing food and respiratory allergies via epicutaneous sensitisation to allergens. OBJECTIVES. To determine the prevalence and patterns of aeroallergen sensitisation, asthma and allergic rhinitis in South African (SA) children with AD. METHODS. This was a prospective, observational study in a paediatric university hospital in Cape Town, SA. Children with moderate to severe AD, aged 6 months - 10 years, were recruited randomly and investigated for food sensitisation and allergy. They were assessed for sensitisation to aeroallergens by the immuno solid-phase allergen chip test. House-dust mite DerP and DerF, dust mite Eur m, Timothy grass, Bermuda grass, tree pollen, mould (Alternaria), cat and dog sensitisation patterns were analysed. Symptoms of asthma and allergic rhinitis were elicited using a questionnaire modified from the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood study questions. RESULTS. One hundred participants (59 black Africans and 41 of mixed ethnicity) were enrolled (median age 42 months). Of the participants, 39% had symptoms of asthma and 53% symptoms of allergic rhinitis; 89% tested positive to at least one aeroallergen, most commonly house-dust mite DerP or DerF (81%), dust mite Eur m (51%), Timothy grass (36%) and cat (35%). Asthma, allergic rhinitis and aeroallergen sensitisation all increased with increasing age, while food allergy decreased with age. Food allergy was not an independent risk factor for respiratory allergies. Children were sensitised to indoor allergens (house-dust mite, pets) from an early age, while pollen allergies increased with age. CONCLUSIONS. In this cohort of SA children with moderate to severe AD, comorbidity with respiratory allergies was high. The prevalence of respiratory allergies increased with age while food allergy decreased with age, in keeping with the pattern of the allergic march. Seasonal allergies increased with age, while house-dust mite and pet allergy peaked in younger children, in keeping with early exposure via a defective skin barrier. Early and effective restoration of the skin barrier in AD may be a target for reducing aeroallergen-related diseases. <![CDATA[<b>Preoperative fasting times: Prescribed and actual fasting times at Universitas Hospital Annex, Bloemfontein, South Africa</b>]]> BACKGROUND. Guidelines recommend a preoperative fasting period of 6 hours for solid food and 2 hours for clear fluids. Because of fixed meal times and imprecise operation starting times, patients often fast for an extended period of time. OBJECTIVE. To investigate the prescribed preoperative fasting times, and the actual duration of fasting, compared with the internationally accepted fasting times for solid food and clear fluids. METHODS. Patients (N=105) aged 14 - 60 years, who were scheduled for elective surgery in the morning session (list starting time 07h00), were included in this prospective study. On arrival in theatre, all patients were asked when they last ate and drank. Anaesthetic records were used to determine the prescribed fasting times and operation starting times. RESULTS. For solids, patients were most frequently prescribed to start fasting from 22h00 to 00h00 (53.3% and 39.1%, respectively). No patient fasted <8 hours. The median duration of fasting was 14 hours and 45 minutes (range 9 hours and 45 minutes - 19 hours and 5 minutes). For fluids, patients were most frequently prescribed to start fasting from 05h00 (46.7%), 00h00 (27.6%) and 22h00 (7.6%). In practice, no patient ingested fluids after 22h30 or <9 hours preoperatively. The median fasting time for oral fluids was 13 hours and 25 minutes (range 9 hours and 37 minutes - 19 hours and 5 minutes). CONCLUSION. Most patients started fasting too early preoperatively, consequently withholding food and oral fluids for longer than recommended. An increased awareness regarding complications of unnecessarily long fasting times, and interventions to correct this problem, is required. <![CDATA[<b>Bibliometric trends of South African environmental health articles between 1998 and 2015: Making local research visible and retrievable</b>]]> BACKGROUND. South Africa (SA) has to grapple with multiple burdens of disease for which environmental factors have a role to play in both causation and prevention. This article describes a bibliometric review of environmental health indexed literature for SA over an 18-year period. OBJECTIVES. To provide an overview of the nature of SA-based published environmental health indexed research and to identify search challenges, frequently researched topics, and gaps and opportunities for future research. METHODS. The Web of Science, PubMed and Science Direct were used to search for original, peer-reviewed and review articles with the inclusion criteria 'environmental health' and 'South Africa' available online and published between 1998 and 2015, inclusively. RESULTS. A total of 230 journal articles were included in the bibliometric analysis. The highest number of articles (n=54) was published in 2015. The majority of the first authors were affiliated with SA institutions (n=160, 69.5%). For the articles where funding was explicitly declared (n=148), the three most frequently occurring agencies that funded the published research were the National Research Foundation in SA (n=17), the South African Medical Research Council (n=13) and the Water Research Commission (n=9). There was little inter-annual/ environmental health category variation over time owing to the relatively small sample size. The largest number of retrieved journal articles was in the area of environmental pollution control (n=76), followed by environmental health lifestyle and behaviour-related topics (n=42) and then water monitoring (n=26). CONCLUSIONS. Despite the research needed to solve large environmental health challenges in SA, environmental health was only used as a keyword in title, author keywords or abstract for 230 SA-based studies over an 18-year period. This makes it extremely difficult for environmental health research to be located and used to inform the profession as well as the research agenda. Several issues that environmental health practitioners are typically tasked to implement and monitor are not indexed as environmental health topics. The need for authors to use 'environmental health' as a keyword is emphasised, particularly if research is to inform decision-making and policy support, as well as guide future research in the country.