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Cause of death among Ghanaian adolescents in Accra using autopsy data

Sally-Ann Ohene1*, Yao Tettey2 and Robert Kumoji2

Author Affiliations

1 World Health Organization Country Office in Ghana, Accra, Ghana

2 Department of Pathology, University of Ghana Medical School, Korle Bu, Accra, Ghana

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BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:353  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-353

Published: 12 September 2011



There is limited data on adolescent mortality particularly from developing countries with unreliable death registration systems. This calls for the use of other sources of data to ascertain cause of adolescent mortality. The objective of this study was to describe the causes of death among Ghanaian adolescents 10 to 19 years in Accra, Ghana utilizing data from autopsies conducted in Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH).


Out of the 14,034 autopsies carried out from 2001 to 2003 in KBTH, 7% were among adolescents. Of the 882 deaths among adolescents analyzed, 402 (45.6%) were females. There were 365 (41.4%) deaths from communicable disease, pregnancy related conditions and nutritional disorders. Non-communicable diseases accounted for 362 (41%) cases and the rest were attributable to injuries and external causes of morbidity and mortality. Intestinal infectious diseases and lower respiratory tract infections were the most common communicable causes of death collectively accounting for 20.5% of total deaths. Death from blood diseases was the largest (8.5%) among the non-communicable conditions followed by neoplasms (7%). Males were more susceptible to injuries than females (χ2 = 13.45, p = .000). At least five out of ten specific causes of death were as a result of infections with pneumonia and typhoid being the most common. Sickle cell disease was among the top three specific causes of death. Among the females, 27 deaths (6.7%) were pregnancy related with most of them being as a result of abortion.


The autopsy data from the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital can serve as a useful source of information on adolescent mortality. Both communicable and non-communicable diseases accounted for most deaths highlighting the need for health care providers to avoid complacency in their management of adolescents presenting with these diseases.