Most Common Diagnosis in Neonatal Unit: Neonatal Sepsis

Neonatal sepsis, a bacterial bloodstream infection, is the most common diagnosis in newborns admitted to the Neonatal Unit. Many babies may also have specific infections such as pneumonia or meningitis. Neonatal sepsis is the primary diagnosis in 42% of the unit’s patients, according to the most recent data from the hospital. This is in keeping with a recent study which found that 48% of neonates admitted to provincial hospitals in Laos had sepsis or other infections1.

Neonatal sepsis can be caused by such bacteria as Group B streptococcus and E. coli. The early signs of infection in neonates can be subtle and doctors need to be alert to these, as well to known risk factors for neonatal infection, such as when the mother has a fever or her waters break several hours before delivery. The obstetric team at the Provincial Hospital within which we are housed, alert the neonatal team to any delivery with risk factors for sepsis.

The mainstay of treatment is antibiotics and many babies also need supportive care, including intravenous fluids and/or glucose, assistance with breastfeeding and sometimes oxygen or CPAP to support breathing. Almost all babies make a full recovery and their long-term prognosis is usually excellent.

Globally, neonatal mortality accounts for almost half of all deaths under the age of five. Neonatal sepsis is the third leading cause of neonatal deaths worldwide and was the second in the recent Lao study cited above. Thanks to your support, the Neonatal Unit is making a significant contribution to neonatal survival in Laos.

  1. Neonatal Mortality and Morbidity in Regional Provincial Hospitals in the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos. Schmidt et al, Journal of Tropical Pediatrics, Volume 62, Issue 3, June 2016, Pages 213–219