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

Document Type



General Surgery (East Africa)


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.


In this work, the author identifies with the Department of Neurological Surgery, Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, NY USA

Publication (Name of Journal)

Spinal Cord Series and Cases

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.