Examining the quality of childhood TB diagnosis in Cambodia: a cross-sectional study

Julia B. Frieze et al.
March 15, 2017, 11:42 p.m.



Cambodia is one of the 22 countries with the highest TB burden. While childhood TB is estimated to make up 10–20% of total TB cases in high-burden settings, this proportion ranges from 1.3 to 39.4% throughout Cambodia’s provinces, suggesting potential under- and over-diagnosis of childhood TB, subnationally. The proportion of case notifications classified as extrapulmonary TB out of total TB case notifications in children is 87%, greatly exceeding the expected global range of 20–30%. There is a gap in the literature on how childhood TB is diagnosed in resource-poor settings, and the quality of diagnoses. The study’s aim is to quantitatively assess the quality of clinician performance and availability of diagnostic tools, for diagnosing childhood TB in high-burden Operational Districts in Cambodia.


Between August and September of 2015, a cross-sectional study was conducted at referral hospitals and villages in 24 high-burden Operational Districts. 40 clinicians, and 104 parents whose child was recently diagnosed with TB were interviewed. Questionnaires assessed availability of diagnostic tools, and clinician knowledge and practice during a clinical examination. Descriptive statistics were calculated to provide cross-sectional data.


Availability of advanced diagnostic tools was low. Only 27.5% of clinicians had Xpert machines available at their facility, and 5% had equipment to perform gastric aspiration. 77.5% of clinicians reported that they had a chest X-ray at their facility, but only 34.6% of parents reported that the clinician conducted a chest X-ray. 72.5% of clinicians could name 5 out of 7 main TB screening criteria; however, parent data suggests that clinicians may not be applying knowledge to practice. The mean number of examinations/tests the clinician conducted during the clinical assessment of the child was 1.64. Of the parents whose child had an enlarged lymph node, 60.22% described lymph node characteristics that were not suggestive of TB.


Limited availability of diagnostic tools and suboptimal clinician performance highlight where resources should be allocated to improve quality of diagnoses. Further research needs to be done in low burden Operational Districts to determine the capacity of clinicians and health facilities for diagnosing childhood TB, where cases are likely being missed.

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Source: BMC Public Health