South African Journal of Child Health
On-line version ISSN 1999-7671
Print version ISSN 1994-3032
BACKGROUND: The clinical presentation of type 1 diabetes in children can be acute or insidious, and symptoms may be subtle and frequently misinterpreted. Presentation with diabetic keto-acidosis (DKA) may be associated with significant morbidity and mortality in the paediatric population. This study aims to determine the characteristics of children presenting to the paediatric endocrine service at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital (IALCH) with DKA at the time of diagnosis, and to determine the frequency of missed diagnoses in the previous month. METHODS: A retrospective study was done at IALCH, the paediatric tertiary referral centre for KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The study sample included all children with an initial diagnosis of type 1 diabetes between January 2008 and June 2010. Children presenting with DKA were compared with those who presented without DKA. RESULTS: During the period under review, 63 children presented with type 1 diabetes. Of these, 44 (69.8%) had DKA at the time of diagnosis. The median duration of symptoms preceding diagnosis in the DKA group was 2 weeks, versus 4 weeks in the non-DKA group (p=0.002). There was no significant difference between the groups when ethnicity, gender and age at presentation were compared. Of 42 patients who presented to healthcare facilities in the month preceding diagnosis, 27 (64.3%) were misdiagnosed. CONCLUSION: Patients who presented with DKA had a shorter duration of symptoms than the non-DKA group. Ethnicity had no effect on characteristics at presentation. There was an unacceptable rate of missed diagnoses of type 1 diabetes in both the private and public sectors.