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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 55  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 195-200

Acute abdominal pain in patients with lassa fever: Radiological assessment and diagnostic challenges

1 Department of Radiology, Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Irrua, Edo, Nigeria
2 Department of Medicine, Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Irrua, Edo, Nigeria
3 Department of Surgery, Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Irrua, Edo, Nigeria

Correspondence Address:
Kenneth C Eze
Department of Radiology, Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, Nnewi, Anambra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0300-1652.132037

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Background: To highlight the problems of diagnosis and management of acute abdomen in patients with lassa fever. And to also highlight the need for high index of suspicion of lassa fever in patients presenting with acute abdominal pain in order to avoid surgical intervention with unfavourable prognosis and nosocomial transmission of infections, especially in Lassa fever-endemic regions. Materials and Methods: A review of experiences of the authors in the management of lassa fever over a 4-year period (2004-2008). Literature on lassa fever, available in the internet and other local sources, was studied in November 2010 and reviewed. Results: Normal plain chest radiographic picture can change rapidly due to pulmonary oedema, pulmonary haemorrhage and acute respiratory distress syndrome. Plain abdominal radiograph may show dilated bowels with signs of paralytic ileus or dynamic intestinal obstruction due to bowel wall haemorrhage or inflamed and enlarged Peyer's patches. Ultrasound may show free intra-peritoneal fluid due to peritonitis and intra-peritoneal haemorrhage. Bleeding into the gall bladder wall may erroneously suggest infective cholecystitis. Pericardial effusion with or without pericarditis causing abdominal pain may be seen using echocardiography. High index of suspicion, antibody testing for lassa fever and viral isolation in a reference laboratory are critical for accurate diagnosis. Conclusion: Patients from lassa fever-endemic regions may present with features that suggest acute abdomen. Radiological studies may show findings that suggest acute abdomen but these should be interpreted in the light of the general clinical condition of the patient. It is necessary to know that acute abdominal pain and vomiting in lassa fever-endemic areas could be caused by lassa fever, which is a medical condition. Surgical option should be undertaken with restraint as it increases the morbidity, may worsen the prognosis and increase the risk of nosocomial transmission.

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