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      Cross-sectional survey on prevalence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms at a tertiary care health facility in Nairobi

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          Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is the most common childhood neurobehavioral disorder with well documented adverse consequences in adolescence and adulthood, yet 60-80% of cases go undiagnosed. Routine screening is not practiced in most pediatric outpatient services and little information exists on factors associated with the condition in developing countries.


          This was a questionnaire based cross-sectional survey whose primary objective was to determine prevalence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms in children aged 6-12 years attending a tertiary care hospital Accidents and Emergency unit. Secondary objectives were to: (i) ascertain if physical injury and poor academic performance were associated with ADHD, (ii) compare diagnostic utility of parent-filled Vanderbilt Assessment Scale (VAS) against Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV (DSM-IV) as the gold reference and (iii) establish if there exists an association between ADHD symptoms cluster and co-morbid conditions.


          Prevalence of cluster of symptoms consistent with ADHD was 6.3% (95% CI; 3.72-10.33) in 240 children studied. Those affected were more likely to repeat classes than the asymptomatic (OR 20.2; 95% CI 4.02-100.43). Additionally, 67% of the symptomatic had previously experienced burns and 37% post-traumatic open wounds. The odds of having an injury in the symptomatic was 2.9 (95% CI; 1.01-8.42) compared to the asymptomatic. Using DSM-IV as reference, VAS had a sensitivity of 66.7% (95%; CI 39.03-87.12) and specificity of 99.0% (95% CI; 96.1-99.2). Positive predictive value was 83.0% (95% CI; 50.4-97.3) and negative predictive value 98.0% (CI 95.1-99.1). Oppositional defiant disorder symptoms, anxiety, depression and conduct problems were not significantly associated with ADHD cluster of symptoms.


          The study found a relatively high prevalence of symptoms associated with ADHD. Symptomatic children experienced poor school performance. These findings support introduction of a policy on routine screening for ADHD in pediatric outpatient service. Positive history of injury and poor academic performance should trigger further evaluation for ADHD. Vanderbilt assessment scale is easier to administer than DSM-IV but has low sensitivity and high specificity that make it inappropriate for screening. It however provides a suitable alternative confirmatory test to determine who among clinically symptomatic patients requires referral to a psychiatrist.

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          Most cited references 26

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          The worldwide prevalence of ADHD: a systematic review and metaregression analysis.

          The worldwide prevalence estimates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)/hyperkinetic disorder (HD) are highly heterogeneous. Presently, the reasons for this discrepancy remain poorly understood. The purpose of this study was to determine the possible causes of the varied worldwide estimates of the disorder and to compute its worldwide-pooled prevalence. The authors searched MEDLINE and PsycINFO databases from January 1978 to December 2005 and reviewed textbooks and reference lists of the studies selected. Authors of relevant articles from North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Middle East and ADHD/HD experts were contacted. Surveys were included if they reported point prevalence of ADHD/HD for subjects 18 years of age or younger from the general population or schools according to DSM or ICD criteria. The literature search generated 9,105 records, and 303 full-text articles were reviewed. One hundred and two studies comprising 171,756 subjects from all world regions were included. The ADHD/HD worldwide-pooled prevalence was 5.29%. This estimate was associated with significant variability. In the multivariate metaregression model, diagnostic criteria, source of information, requirement of impairment for diagnosis, and geographic origin of the studies were significantly associated with ADHD/HD prevalence rates. Geographic location was associated with significant variability only between estimates from North America and both Africa and the Middle East. No significant differences were found between Europe and North America. Our findings suggest that geographic location plays a limited role in the reasons for the large variability of ADHD/HD prevalence estimates worldwide. Instead, this variability seems to be explained primarily by the methodological characteristics of studies.
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            Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

            Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a disorder of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity that affects 8-12% of children worldwide. Although the rate of ADHD falls with age, at least half of children with the disorder will have impairing symptoms in adulthood. Twin, adoption, and molecular genetic studies show ADHD to be highly heritable, and other findings have recorded obstetric complications and psychosocial adversity as predisposing risk factors. Converging evidence from animal and human studies implicates the dysregulation of frontal-subcortical-cerebellar catecholaminergic circuits in the pathophysiology of ADHD, and molecular imaging studies suggest that abnormalities of the dopamine transporter lead to impaired neurotransmission. Studies during the past decade have shown the safety and effectiveness of new non-stimulant drugs and long-acting formulations of methylphenidate and amfetamine. Other investigations have also clarified the appropriate role of targeted psychosocial treatments in the context of ongoing pharmacotherapy.
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              ADHD: clinical practice guideline for the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents.

              Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most common neurobehavioral disorder of childhood and can profoundly affect the academic achievement, well-being, and social interactions of children; the American Academy of Pediatrics first published clinical recommendations for the diagnosis and evaluation of ADHD in children in 2000; recommendations for treatment followed in 2001.

                Author and article information

                Child Adolesc Psychiatry Ment Health
                Child Adolesc Psychiatry Ment Health
                Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health
                BioMed Central (London )
                31 January 2015
                31 January 2015
                : 9
                : 1
                [ ]Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Aga Khan University Hospital, P.O BOX 30270-00100, Nairobi, Kenya
                [ ]Chiromo Lane Medical Centre, Nairobi, Kenya
                © Wamithi et al.; licensee BioMed Central. 2015

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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