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J Orthop Surg Res. 2012 May 11;7:18. doi: 10.1186/1749-799X-7-18.

Major limb amputations: a tertiary hospital experience in northwestern Tanzania.

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Department of Surgery, Catholic University of Health and Allied Sciences-Bugando, Mwanza, Tanzania.



Major limb amputation is reported to be a major but preventable public health problem that is associated with profound economic, social and psychological effects on the patient and family especially in developing countries where the prosthetic services are poor. The purpose of this study was to outline the patterns, indications and short term complications of major limb amputations and to compare our experience with that of other published data.


This was a descriptive cross-sectional study that was conducted at Bugando Medical Centre between March 2008 and February 2010. All patients who underwent major limb amputation were, after informed consent for the study, enrolled into the study. Data were collected using a pre-tested, coded questionnaire and analyzed using SPSS version 11.5 computer software.


A total of 162 patients were entered into the study. Their ages ranged between 2-78 years (mean 28.30 ± 13.72 days). Males outnumbered females by a ratio of 2:1. The majority of patients (76.5%) had primary or no formal education. One hundred and twelve (69.1%) patients were unemployed. The most common indication for major limb amputation was diabetic foot complications in 41.9%, followed by trauma in 38.4% and vascular disease in 8.6% respectively. Lower limbs were involved in 86.4% of cases and upper limbs in 13.6% of cases giving a lower limb to upper limb ratio of 6.4:1 Below knee amputation was the most common procedure performed in 46.3%. There was no bilateral limb amputation. The most common additional procedures performed were wound debridement, secondary suture and skin grafting in 42.3%, 34.5% and 23.2% respectively. Two-stage operation was required in 45.4% of patients. Revision amputation rate was 29.6%. Post-operative complication rate was 33.3% and surgical site infection was the most common complication accounting for 21.0%. The mean length of hospital stay was 22.4 days and mortality rate was 16.7%.


Complications of diabetic foot ulcers and trauma resulting from road traffic crashes were the most common indications for major limb amputation in our environment. The majority of these amputations are preventable by provision of health education, early presentation and appropriate management of the common indications.

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