Pressure ulcers after traumatic spinal injury in East Africa: risk factors, illustrative case, and low-cost protocol for prevention and treatment

Noah L. Lessing, Silvery Mwesige, Albert Lazaro, Beverly J. Cheserem, Scott L. Zuckerman, Andreas Leidinger, Nicephorus Rutabasibwa, Hamisi K. Shabani, Halinder S. Mangat, Roger Härtl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Study design: Retrospective, case-control study. Objectives: In a traumatic spinal injury (TSI) cohort from Tanzania, we sought to: (1) describe potential risk factors for pressure ulcer development, (2) present an illustrative case, and (3) propose a low-cost outpatient protocol for prevention and treatment. Setting: Tertiary referral hospital. Methods: All patients admitted for TSI over a 33-month period were reviewed. Variables included demographics, time to hospital, injury characteristics, operative management, length of hospitalization, and mortality. Pressure ulcer development was the primary outcome. Regressions were used to report potential predictors, and international guidelines were referenced to construct a low-cost outpatient protocol. Results: Of 267 patients that met the inclusion criteria, 51 developed a pressure ulcer. Length of stay was greater for patients with pressure ulcers compared with those without (45 vs. 30 days, p < 0.001). Potential predictors for developing pressure ulcers were: increased days from injury to hospital admission (p = 0.036), American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale grade A upon admission (p < 0.001), and thoracic spine injury (p = 0.037). The illustrative case described a young male presenting ~2 months after complete thoracic spinal cord injury with a grade IV sacral pressure ulcer that lead to septic shock and death. Considering the dramatic consequences of pressure ulcers in lower- and middle-income countries (LMICs), we proposed a low-cost protocol for prevention and treatment targeting support surfaces, repositioning, skin care, nutrition, follow-up, and dressing. Conclusions: Pressure ulcers after TSI in LMICs can lead to increased hospital stays and major adverse events. High-risk patients were those with delayed presentation, complete neurologic injuries, and thoracic injuries. We recommended aggressive prevention and treatment strategies suitable for resource-constrained settings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number48
JournalSpinal cord series and cases
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


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