Since oxygen has to be given to most children in developing countries on the basis of clinical signs without performing blood gas analyses, possible clinical predictors of hypoxaemia were studied. Sixty nine children between the ages of 2 months and 5 years admitted to hospital with acute lower respiratory tract infection and an oxygen saturation (Sao 2) < 90% were compared with 67 children matched for age and diagnosis from the same referral hospital with an Sao 2 of 90% or above (control group 1), and 44 unreferred children admitted to a secondary care hospital with acute lower respiratory infection (control group 2). Using multiple logistic regression analysis, sleepiness, arousal, quality of cry, cyanosis, head nodding, decreased air entry, nasal flaring, and upper arm circumference were found to be independent predictors of hypoxaemia on comparison of the cases with control group 1. Using a simple model of cyanosis or head nodding or not crying, the sensitivity to predict hypoxaemia was 59%, and the specificity 94% and 93% compared to control groups 1 and 2, respectively; 80% of the children with an Sao 2 < 80% were identified by the combination of these signs. Over half of the children with hypoxaemia could be identified with a combination of three signs: extreme respiratory distress, cyanosis, and severely compromised general status. Further prospective validation of this model with other datasets is warranted. No other signs improved the sensitivity without compromising specificity. If a higher sensitivity is required, pulse oximetry has to be used.
- clinical signs
- developing countries
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