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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Etiological spectrum and treatment outcome of Obstructive jaundice at a University teaching Hospital in northwestern Tanzania: A diagnostic and therapeutic challenges

Phillipo L Chalya1*, Emmanuel S Kanumba1 and Mabula Mchembe2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Surgery, Weill-Bugando University College of Health Sciences, Mwanza, Tanzania

2 Department of Surgery, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

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BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:147  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-147

Published: 23 May 2011



Obstructive jaundice poses diagnostic and therapeutic challenges to general surgeons practicing in resource-limited countries. This study was undertaken to highlight the etiological spectrum, treatment outcome of obstructive jaundice in our setting and to identify prognostic factors for morbidity and mortality.


This was a descriptive prospective study which was conducted at Bugando Medical Centre between July 2006 and June 2010. All patients with a clinical diagnosis of obstructive jaundice were, after informed consent for the study, consecutively enrolled into the study. Data were collected using a pre-tested structured questionnaire and analyzed using SPSS computer software version 11.5.


A total of 116 patients were studied. Females outnumbered males by a ratio of 1.3:1. Patients with malignant obstructive jaundice were older than those of benign type. Ca head of pancreas was the commonest malignant cause of jaundice where as choledocholithiasis was the commonest benign cause. Abdominal ultrasound was the only diagnostic imaging done in all patients and revealed dilated intra and extra-hepatic ducts, common bile stones and abdominal masses in 56.2%, 78.9%, 58.1% and 72.4% of the cases respectively. A total of 110 (94.8%) patients underwent surgical treatment and the remaining 6 (5.2%) patients were unfit for surgery. The complication rate was 22.4% mainly surgical site infections. The mean hospital stay and mortality rate were 14.54 days and 15.5% respectively. A low haematocrit and presence of postoperative sepsis were the main predictors of the hospital stay (P < 0.001), whereas age > 60 years, prolonged duration of jaundice, malignant causes and presence of postoperative complications mainly sepsis significantly predicted mortality (P < 0.001).


Obstructive jaundice in our setting is more prevalent in females and the cause is mostly malignant. The result of this study suggests that early diagnosis and treatment plays an important role in the prognosis of patients with obstructive jaundice.

Obstructive jaundice; etiological spectrum; treatment outcome; prognostic factors; Tanzania