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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574


NGAH, V et al. Respiratory presentations to acute services at a tertiary hospital in South Africa. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2021, vol.111, n.11, pp.1104-1109. ISSN 2078-5135.

BACKGROUND: Respiratory diseases account for >10% of the global burden of disease when measured in disability-adjusted life-years. The burden of chronic respiratory diseases (CRDs) increases as the world's population ages, with a much greater increase in low- to middle-income countriesOBJECTIVES: To characterise and quantify the reasons for acute respiratory presentations to the acute care services at a tertiary hospital in Cape Town, South AfricaMETHODS: A cross-sectional descriptive study was conducted. Casualty registers and electronic record databases were reviewed to determine the diagnoses of consecutive patients attending the casualty unit from May 2019 to January 2020RESULTS: A total of 1 053 individual patients presented with a primary respiratory diagnosis. Fewer than 10% of admissions were from outside the Cape Town metrópole, while >60% were from the subdistrict immediately adjacent to the hospital. Of all patients, 8.3% were readmitted at least once within the 9-month study period. Six hundred and forty-three (61.1%) of the patients presented with non-CRDs. The main reasons for presentation in these patients were pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB) (n=224; 21.3%), other infections including lower respiratory tract infections, pneumonia and bronchitis (n=272; 25.8%), and cancer (n=140; 13.3%). Haemoptysis was seen in 9.8% of all patients, mainly explained by post-tuberculosis lung disease (PTLD) (37.9%) and PTB (36.9%). Of the patients, 410 (38.9%) had an underlying CRD, with chronic pulmonary obstructive disease (COPD) being the most common (n=192; 18.2%), followed by PTLD (n=88; 8.5%) and asthma (n=52; 5.1%CONCLUSIONS: Over a 9-month period, acute respiratory presentations to a tertiary hospital were mainly for primary/secondary level of care indications, highlighting disparity in accessing tertiary services. COPD and PTLD predominated among CRDs, while infections and cancers were common. A high readmission rate was found for several diseases, suggesting the potential for targeted interventions to prevent both admissions and readmissions and reduce acute hospital utilisation costs

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