Pre-post effects of a tetanus care protocol implementation in a sub-Saharan African intensive care unit

Riaz Aziz, Soledad Colombe, Gibonce Mwakisambwe, Solomon Ndezi, Jim Todd, Samuel Kalluvya, Halinder S. Mangat, Reed Magleby, Arndt Koebler, Bernard Kenemo, Robert N. Peck, Jennifer A. Downs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Tetanus is a vaccine-preventable, neglected disease that is life threatening if acquired and occurs most frequently in regions where vaccination coverage is incomplete. Challenges in vaccination coverage contribute to the occurrence of non-neonatal tetanus in sub-Saharan countries, with high case fatality rates. The current WHO recommendations for the management of tetanus include close patient monitoring, administration of immune globulin, sedation, analgesia, wound hygiene and airway support [1]. In response to these recommendations, our tertiary referral hospital in Tanzania implemented a standardized clinical protocol for care of patients with tetanus in 2006 and a subsequent modification in 2012. In this study we aimed to assess the impact of the protocol on clinical care of tetanus patients and their outcomes. METHODS AND FINDINGS: We examined provision of care and outcomes among all patients admitted with non-neonatal tetanus to the ICU at Bugando Medical Centre between 2001 and 2016 in this retrospective cohort study. We compared three groups: the pre-protocol group (2001-2005), the Early protocol group (2006-2011), and the Late protocol group (2012-2016) and determined associations with mortality by univariable logistic regression. We observed a significant increase in provision of care as per protocol between the Early and Late groups. Patients in the Late group had a significantly higher utilization of mechanical ventilation (69.92.0 ptextless 0.0001), provision of surgical wound care (39.80.3 p = 0.011), and performance of tracheostomies (36.8.7 textless0.0001) than patients in the Early group. Despite the increased provision of care, we found no significant decrease in overall mortality in the Early versus the Late groups (55.40.3 p = 0.069), or between the pre-protocol and post-protocol groups (60.70.0 p = 0.28). There was also no difference in 7-day ICU mortality (30.17.8 p = 0.70). Analysis of the causes of death revealed a decrease in deaths related to airway compromise (30.0.8 ptextless0.001) but an increase in deaths due to presumed sepsis (15.04.6 p = 0.018). CONCLUSION: The overall mortality in patients suffering non-neonatal tetanus is high (textgreater40. Institution of a standardized tetanus management protocol, in accordance with WHO recommendations, decreased immediate mortality related to primary causes of death after tetanus. However, this was offset by an increase in death due to later ICU complications such as sepsis. Our results illustrate the complexity in achieving mortality reduction even in illnesses thought to require few critical care interventions. Improving basic ICU care and strengthening vaccination programs to prevent tetanus altogether are essential components of efforts to decrease the mortality caused by this lethal, neglected disease.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)e0006667
Publication statusPublished - 1-Aug-2018


  • Adult
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tanzania
  • Tetanus
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


Dive into the research topics of 'Pre-post effects of a tetanus care protocol implementation in a sub-Saharan African intensive care unit'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this