Hypoxaemia prevalence and its adverse clinical outcomes among children hospitalised with WHO-defined severe pneumonia in Bangladesh.

11 Sep 2021


With an estimated 1 million cases per year, pneumonia accounts for 15% of all under-five deaths globally, and hypoxaemia is one of the strongest predictors of mortality. Most of these deaths are preventable and occur in low- and middle-income countries. Bangladesh is among the six high burden countries with an estimated 4 million pneumonia episodes annually. There is a gap in updated evidence on the prevalence of hypoxaemia among children with severe pneumonia in high burden countries, including Bangladesh.


We conducted a secondary analysis of data obtained from icddr,b-Dhaka Hospital, a secondary level referral hospital located in Dhaka, Bangladesh. We included 2646 children aged 2-59 months admitted with WHO-defined severe pneumonia during 2014-17. The primary outcome of interest was hypoxaemia, defined as SpO < 90% on admission. The secondary outcome of interest was adverse clinical outcomes defined as deaths during hospital stay or referral to higher-level facilities due to clinical deterioration.


On admission, the prevalence of hypoxaemia among children hospitalised with severe pneumonia was 40%. The odds of hypoxaemia were higher among females (adjusted Odds ratio AOR = 1.44; 95% confidence interval CI = 1.22-1.71) and those with a history of cough or difficulty in breathing for 0-48 hours before admission (AOR = 1.61; 95% CI = 1.28-2.02). Among all children with severe pneumonia, 6% died during the hospital stay, and 9% were referred to higher-level facilities due to clinical deterioration. Hypoxaemia was the strongest predictor of mortality (AOR = 11.08; 95% CI = 7.28-16.87) and referral (AOR = 5.94; 95% CI = 4.31-17) among other factors such as age, sex, history of fever and cough or difficulty in breathing, and severe acute malnutrition. Among those who survived, the median duration of hospital stay was 7 (IQR = 4-11) days in the hypoxaemic group and 6 (IQR = 4-9) days in the non-hypoxaemic group, and the difference was significant at  < 0.001.


The high burden of hypoxaemia and its clinical outcomes call for urgent attention to promote oxygen security in low resource settings like Bangladesh. The availability of pulse oximetry for rapid identification and an effective oxygen delivery system for immediate correction should be ensured for averting many preventable deaths.

Resource information

Type of resource
Peer-reviewed article
Rahman AE, Hossain AT, Chisti MJ, Dockrell DH, Nair H, El Arifeen S, Campbell H