Typhoid intestinal perforation in developing countries: Still unavoidable deaths?


Contini S.


Typhoid fever is a public health challenge mostly concentrated in impoverished, overcrowded areas of the developing world, with lack of safe drinking and sanitation. The most serious complication is typhoid intestinal perforation (TIP), observed in 0.8% to 39%, with a striking rate difference between high-income and low-middle-income countries. Although the mortality rate consequent to TIP in resource-poor countries is improved in the last decades, it is still fluctuating from 5% to 80%, due to surgical- and not surgical-related constraints. Huge economic costs and long timelines are required to provide a short- to middle-term solution to the lack of safe water and sanitation. Inherent limitations of the currently available diagnostic tools may lead to under-evaluation as well as over-evaluation of the disease, with consequent delayed treatment or inappropriate, excessive antibiotic use, hence increasing the likelihood of bacterial resistance. There is a need for immunization programs in populations at greatest risk, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Uniform surgical strategies and guidelines, on the basis of sound or prospective surgical studies and adapted to the local realities, are still lacking. Major drawbacks of the surgical treatment are the frequent delays to surgery, either for late diagnosis or for difficult transports, and the unavailable appropriate intensive care units in most peripheral facilities. As a consequence, poor patient’s conditions at presentation, severe peritoneal contamination and unsuitable postoperative care are the foremost determinant of surgical morbidity and mortality.

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