Subdural Empyema in Africans in Rhodesia

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Subdural empyema was encountered in 44 African patients in Rhodesia during the period from 1970 to 1974. Subdural empyema seems to be a relatively frequent occurrence in Africans. Sixty-eight per cent of the patients were below the age of 20 years, and males predominated. More than half of the patients had either a history or evidence of an infectious process outside the central nervous system, and about 60% demonstrated focal neurological signs. The diagnosis was confirmed by either surgery or postmortem examination. Cultures of available specimens were positive in 50%. The predominant organisms identified were Streptococcus, followed by Staphylococcus. Surgical treatment consisted mainly of multiple burr holes, drainage of the empyema, and irrigation. The mortality rate in this study was 59%, and some recognizable contributing factors are elaborated. In the discussion the authors compare these observations with pertinent reviews from the literature. Some of these findings correlate well with other reports, whereas other observations are attributed to factors partly inherent in the socio-economic structure of the African population in Rhodesia.

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