The significant gap between international standards and stroke management practices at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (Malawi): An audit report
The Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) is preparing to set up the first stroke unit in Blantyre, Malawi. We conducted this audit to assess current stroke management practices and outcomes at QECH and identify priority areas for intervention.
From April to June 2018, we prospectively enrolled patients with acute stroke and collected data on clinical presentation, cardiovascular risk factors, investigations and interventions, in-hospital outcomes, and follow-up plans after discharge. The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA) guidelines were used as the standard of care for comparison.
Fifty patients with acute stroke were enrolled (46% women, 54% men). The mean age was 63.1 years (95% CI: 59.7–66.6). The diagnosis of stroke was based on the World Health Organization criteria. The diagnosis was made within 24 hours of admission in 19 patients (38%). Acute revascularisation therapy was not available. Forty-eight patients (96%) had their vital signs checked at baseline and <10% had their vital signs checked more than three times within the first 24 hours. Essential blood tests including random blood sugar (RBS), full blood count (FBC), urea/creatinine, and lipid profiles were performed in 72%, 68%, 48%, and 4%, respectively. An electrocardiogram was performed on 34 patients (68%). Blood pressure on admission was >140/90 mmHg in 34 patients (68%), including 4 with values >220/120 mmHg. Nine patients had an RBS >10 mmol/L and four received insulin. Prophylaxis for deep venous thrombosis was offered to 12 patients (24%). Aspiration pneumonia was reported in 16 patients (32%) and was the most common hospital complication. The mean duration of hospitalisation was 10.4 days (95% CI: 5.6–15.2), and case fatality was 18%. The modified Rankin scale at discharge was ≤2 in 32% of patients. Only four patients (8%) were transferred to a rehabilitation centre. At the time of discharge, only 32% of patients received education on stroke.
Acute stroke care is less than optimal in this setting. Simple interventions such as reducing the delay in making a stroke diagnosis, early swallow assessments, and closer monitoring of vital signs could make a significant difference in stroke outcome. Furthermore, treating cardiovascular risk factors and setting up health education programmes to improve secondary prevention represent key priorities.