Etiology of major limb amputations at a tertiary care centre in Malawi

  • Joanna Grudziak Department of Surgery, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
Keywords: Major amputations, Malawi, traumatic amputations, low- and middle-income countries (LMIC), sub-Saharan Africa


Amputations in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) represent an important cause of disability and economic hardship. LMIC patients are young and suffer from preventable causes, such as trauma and trauma-related infections. We herein studied the etiology in amputations in a Malawian tertiary care hospital over a 9-year period.
Operative and anaesthesia logs at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Lilongwe, Malawi, were reviewed for 2008–2016. Baseline demographic and clinical variables and type of amputation performed were collected. Only major limb amputations, defined as above or below the knee, above or below the elbow, and above the wrist, were included in this study.
A total of 610 patients underwent 630 major amputations during the study period. Of these, 170 (27%) patients were female, and the median age of the cohort was 39 (interquartile range [IQR] 25–55). Of these patients, 345 (54.8%) had infection or gangrene recorded among the indications for amputation, 203 (32.2%) had trauma, 94 (14.9%) had cancer and 67 (10.6%) had documented diabetes. Women underwent diabetes-related amputations more often than men (37 out of 67, or 56.1%), and were significantly younger when their amputations were due to diabetes (median age 48 vs 53 years old, P=0.004) or trauma (median age 21 vs 30 years old, P=0.02). The commonest operative procedures were below the knee amputations, at 271 (43%), and above the knee amputations, at 213 (33.8%).
Amputations in Malawi affect primarily the young, in the most economically productive time of their lives, in contrast to amputees in high-income countries. Preventable causes, such as infection and trauma, lead to the majority of amputations. These etiologies represent an important primary prevention target for public health efforts in LMICs. 
Original Research

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1995-7262
print ISSN: 1995-7262