Efficacy of major general surgery performed by non-physician clinicians at a central hospital in Malawi

Trop Doct. 2011 Apr;41(2):71-5. doi: 10.1258/td.2010.100272. Epub 2011 Feb 8.


In some sub-Saharan African countries non-physician clinicians have to perform major general surgery without medical officers and surgeons. The safety of this practice has not been established. The aim of this study was to evaluate the contribution of clinical officers (COs) to major general surgery at Zomba Central Hospital. We performed a retrospective five-year period study during 2003-2007. The perioperative outcome for three procedures was analysed. During the study 2931 major general surgical procedures were performed: 1437 (49%) by surgeons; 366 (12.5%) by COs assisted by surgeons; and 1128 (38.5%) by COs alone. COs performed 50% of prostatectomies, ventriculo-peritoneal-shuntings and strangulated hernia repairs with bowel resection alone. Baseline parameters and perioperative outcomes of the patients who underwent operations with surgeons present (as operator or assistant, 'surgeon group') or patients operated by COs alone ('CO group') were similar. COs can safely perform major general surgery when adequate training and supervision are provided.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clinical Competence
  • Female
  • General Surgery / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospitals, District / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Malawi
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Perioperative Period
  • Physician Assistants*
  • Postoperative Period
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / statistics & numerical data*
  • Workforce
  • Young Adult