Background: Severe acute malnutrition (SAM) is a major public health problem. Mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) is widely used to admit children to treatment programmes. However, insufficient data supporting MUAC discharge criterion limits its use as a stand-alone tool. Our aim was to evaluate MUAC for monitoring nutritional recovery and discharge. Methods: This was a secondary analysis of clinical data from children 6-59 months-old treated for SAM from January 2003 to December 2013 at the Nutritional Rehabilitation Unit in rural Gambia. Weight, weight-forheight z-score (WHZ) and MUAC response to treatment were assessed. Treatment indicators and regression models controlled for admission measurement and age were compared by discharge MUAC and WHZ. Results: Four hundred and sixty-three children with marasmus were included. MUAC, WHZ and weight showed parallel responses to treatment. MUAC≥125mm as a discharge criterion performed well, showing good prediction of default and referral to hospital, acceptable duration of stay, and a higher absolute MUAC measure compared to WHZ≥-2.00, closely related to lower risk of mortality. Conclusions: MUAC can be used as a standalone tool for monitoring nutritional recovery. MUAC≥125mm performs well as a discharge criterion; however, follow-up data is needed to assess its safety. Further research is needed on children meeting MUAC discharge criterion but with WHZ≤2.0.
- Mid-upper arm circumference
- Severe acute malnutrition