An observational study of perioperative nutrition and postoperative outcomes in patients undergoing laparotomy at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi

  • Kondwani Katundu Division of Physiology, College of Medicine, University of Malawi, Blantyre, Malawi
Keywords: Malnutrition, Surgical Complications, Nutrition Assessment, Nutritional Support, Handgrip Strength, Subjective Global Assessment, Laparotomy, Length of Hospital Stay


Nutritional status in patients undergoing surgery can influence their immune function, tissue repair and, hence, clinical outcomes. This study aimed to assess the perioperative nutrition and postoperative outcome of patients undergoing laparotomy at a tertiary hospital in Malawi.

A total of 25 patients were included in this prospective, observational study. The Subjective Global Assessment was used to classify each patient according to nutritional status. Handgrip strength was measured for each patient preoperatively and at day 3 postoperatively. Anthropometric measurements were also done. Protein and energy requirements for each participant were estimated and compared to the quantities provided by the hospital diet. Patients were followed up until discharge and outcome variables which included length of hospital stay and wound dehiscence or infectious complications were recorded.

Of the study participants, 20% were well-nourished, 52% were moderately malnourished and 28% were severely malnourished. The median handgrip strength decreased at day 3 postoperatively from the preoperative handgrip strength. Well-nourished patients had higher handgrip strength than malnourished patients both preoperatively and postoperatively. Total energy and protein provided by the hospital diet were significantly lower than the estimated requirements for the patients. Severely malnourished patients had increased median length of hospital stay and increased rate of postoperative complications. Preoperative and postoperative day 3 handgrip strength correlated negatively with the number of postoperative complications and length of hospital stay.

This study showed high rates of malnutrition and inadequate in-hospital nutritional support which were associated with poor clinical outcomes, especially in severely malnourished patients. Proper nutritional assessment and provision of adequate nutritional support should be reinforced in surgical patients to promote favourable clinical outcomes postoperatively. Further studies with larger sample sizes in other patient populations and hospitals in Malawi are required in this area.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1995-7262
print ISSN: 1995-7270