Objectives: To determine the incidence of cleft lip, cleft palate, spina bifida and hydrocephalus; and to compare these with those of Asian and European subjects.
Design: A retrospective study.
Setting: The Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre, Malawi.
Subjects: Delivery and nursery records compiled between January 1998 and December 1999 were studied.
Main outcome measures: To measure the incidence of cleft lip, cleft palate, spina bifida and hydrocephalus.
Results: Of the total 25562 births, 39 (0.2%) had defects; eight boys and 31 girls. Clefts (all types) comprised the largest group, 43.6%, with an incidence of 0.67/1 000; spina bifida, 30.8% with an incidence of 0.47/1000; hydrocephalus, 15.4%, and an incidence of 0.23/1000; and spina bifida with hydrocephalus, 10.3%, with 0.16/1000 incidence. The respective mean (SD) birth weights for clefts (all types), spina bifida, hydrocephalus and spina bifida with hydrocephalus were 2806.47 (569.07) g, 2650.00 (360.55) g 2610.00 (720.97) g and 3362.50 (696.87) g respectively.
Conclusion: Our findings show a higher incidence of spina bifida in Malawians than in Caucasians and Orientals, but the incidence was lower than Omani subjects. The incidence of clefts and hydrocephalus in black Malawians, however, was lower than previously reported in other population groups, and hydrocephalus probably showed the lowest incidence among blacks in the continent. Furthermore, congenital malformations affected more girls than boys 4:1, but the infants had normal birth weight.