Open Access Research article

Effect of emergency major abdominal surgery on CD4 cell count among HIV positive patients in a sub Saharan Africa tertiary hospital - a prospective study

Gabriel Okumu1, Patson Makobore2*, Sam Kaggwa2, Andrew Kambugu3 and Moses Galukande2

Author Affiliations

1 Kisizi Hospital, Kampala, Uganda

2 Department of Surgery, College of Health Sciences, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda

3 Infectious Disease Institute, College of Health Sciences Makerere, Kampala, Uganda

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BMC Surgery 2013, 13:4  doi:10.1186/1471-2482-13-4

Published: 26 February 2013



Surgery plays a key role in HIV palliative care, specifically in the diagnosis and treatment of HIV related and non-related conditions. Yet major surgery depresses the immune system. Whereas the surgical consequences of HIV infection are well described, there is a paucity of published data, in resource-limited settings, on the effects of major surgery on the immune system. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of major abdominal surgery on CD4 count in HIV positive and HIV negative patients after emergency major surgery.


A prospective cohort study was done for patients who underwent emergency major abdominal surgery. Their peri-operative CD4 counts were done for both HIV- and HIV + patients. Median CD4s were used in analysis.

Mann Whitney test of significance was used for continuous data and Fisher’ exact test used for categorical data. IRB approval was obtained.


A total of 101 patients were recruited, 25 HIV positive and 76 HIV negative. The median CD4 cell reduction was higher in the HIV negative group (−68 cells) than HIV positive group (−29 cells) (p = 0.480).

There was a general increase in the median CD4 change by 72 cells for the HIV positives and 95 cells for the HIV negatives (p = 0.44). CD4 change rose in both the HIV positive and negative groups by 27 cells for the HIV positives and 28 cells for the HIV negatives (p = 0.94). Relative Risk was 0.96, {CI 0.60 – 1.53}.


Major emergency abdominal surgery had no significant effect on CD4 cell count among HIV positive patients.

Major surgery; CD4; HIV