Gastrointestinal complications in critically ill children: Experience from a resource-limited country

  • Sidra Ishaque The Aga Khan University Hospital
  • Marium Shakir The Aga Khan University Hospital
  • Asma Ladak The Aga Khan University Hospital Medical College
  • Anwar Ul Haque Liaquat National Hospiatl
Keywords: Gastrointestinal Complications, Critically Ill, Children


Objectives: To determine the frequency and predictors of outcome of gastrointestinal complications (GIC) in critically ill children.

Methods: This descriptive study was prospectively conducted in The Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), The Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), Karachi, from September 2015 to January 2017. After obtaining approval from the Ethical Review Committee of AKUH and informed consent from the parents, all children (aged one month to 18 years), of either gender, admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) during the study period were included. The frequency of the defined GIC: vomiting, high gastric residue volume (GRV), diarrhea, constipation, and gastrointestinal bleed were recorded daily for the first week of the PICU stay. The data was collected by the primary investigator on a predesigned data collection form with inclusion of variables and predictors in light of existing literature and local expertise. The questionnaire was shared with the Pediatric Critical Care Medicine faculty and a consensus was sought on the elements to be incorporated.

Results: GIC developed within the first 48 hours of admission in 78 (41%) patients. Of the patients who developed GIC, 37 (47.4%) patients developed high GRV: 31 (39.7%) patients developed constipation, 18 (23.1%) patients developed vomiting, 14 (17.9%) patients developed abdominal distension. With regards to prevalence by occurrence, 32/78 (41%) of patients presented with two GI complications, followed by 21 patients (27%) who presented with a single GIC. Only 11 patients (14%) presented with more than three complications. Median length of stay was higher in patients with GIC (8 days) than with those who did not develop GIC (4 days). The frequency of gastrointestinal complications was significantly higher in children receiving mechanical ventilation, on sedatives and relaxants and those with multiorgan dysfunction syndrome (MODS) and inotropes

Conclusion: GI complications are a frequent occurrence in the PICU and are associated with worse clinical outcomes. The use of sedative drugs and the presence of shock with MODS were amongst the important contributing factors.


How to cite this:
Ishaque S, Shakir M, Ladak A, Anwar-Ul-Haque. Gastrointestinal complications in critically ill children: Experience from a resource-limited country. Pak J Med Sci. 2021;37(3):657-662. doi:

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Author Biography

Asma Ladak, The Aga Khan University Hospital Medical College

Medical Student

How to Cite
Ishaque, S., Shakir, M., Ladak, A., & Haque, A. U. (2021). Gastrointestinal complications in critically ill children: Experience from a resource-limited country. Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences, 37(3).
Original Articles