Etiology of hospital mortality in children living in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review and meta-analysis

the Global Health Subgroup of the Pediatric Acute Lung Injury and Sepsis Investigators (PALISI) Network

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In 2019, 80% of the 7.4 million global child deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Global and regional estimates of cause of hospital death and admission in LMIC children are needed to guide global and local priority setting and resource allocation but are currently lacking. The study objective was to estimate global and regional prevalence for common causes of pediatric hospital mortality and admission in LMICs. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to identify LMIC observational studies published January 1, 2005-February 26, 2021. Eligible studies included: a general pediatric admission population, a cause of admission or death, and total admissions. We excluded studies with data before 2,000 or without a full text. Two authors independently screened and extracted data. We performed methodological assessment using domains adapted from the Quality in Prognosis Studies tool. Data were pooled using random-effects models where possible. We reported prevalence as a proportion of cause of death or admission per 1,000 admissions with 95% confidence intervals (95% CI). Our search identified 29,637 texts. After duplicate removal and screening, we analyzed 253 studies representing 21.8 million pediatric hospitalizations in 59 LMICs. All-cause pediatric hospital mortality was 4.1% [95% CI 3.4%–4.7%]. The most common causes of mortality (deaths/1,000 admissions) were infectious [12 (95% CI 9–14)]; respiratory [9 (95% CI 5–13)]; and gastrointestinal [9 (95% CI 6–11)]. Common causes of admission (cases/1,000 admissions) were respiratory [255 (95% CI 231–280)]; infectious [214 (95% CI 193–234)]; and gastrointestinal [166 (95% CI 143–190)]. We observed regional variation in estimates. Pediatric hospital mortality remains high in LMICs. Global child health efforts must include measures to reduce hospital mortality including basic emergency and critical care services tailored to the local disease burden. Resources are urgently needed to promote equity in child health research, support researchers, and collect high-quality data in LMICs to further guide priority setting and resource allocation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1397232
JournalFrontiers in Pediatrics
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • acute illness
  • critical illness
  • global health
  • hospital admission
  • hospital death
  • low- and middle-income countries
  • resource-limited settings


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