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Int J Tuberc Lung Dis. 2001 Nov;5(11):1000-5.

High early death rate in tuberculosis patients in Malawi.

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National Tuberculosis Control Programme, Community Health Science Unit, Lilongwe, Malawi.



Thirty-eight district and mission hospitals in Malawi.


In patients registered with all types of tuberculosis (TB) in 1997 to determine 1) treatment outcomes, and 2) when in the course of anti-tuberculosis treatment TB deaths occurred.


A retrospective study using information from TB registers, health centre registers, TB treatment cards and TB ward admission books.


A total of 16,004 patients were registered with all types of TB, 6471 with smear-positive pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB), 5305 with smear-negative PTB and 4228 with extra-pulmonary tuberculosis (EPTB). Of patients with all types of TB, 3720 (23%) died: death rates were 22% in smear-positive PTB, 26% in smear-negative PTB and 22% in EPTB. Month of death was known in 3371 patients (91% of those who died) and day of death in 3326 patients (89% of those who died). In patients who died, 19% of deaths occurred by day 7 and 41% by the end of the first month of treatment. A higher proportion of early deaths occurred in patients with smear-negative PTB and EPTB and in relation to increasing age.


There was a high overall death rate in TB patients registered in 1997, with 40% of deaths occurring in the first month of treatment. Strategies to combat this problem are needed.

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