Accuracy of the Broselow Tape in South Sudan, "The Hungriest Place on Earth"

Acad Emerg Med. 2016 Jan;23(1):21-8. doi: 10.1111/acem.12854. Epub 2015 Dec 15.


Objectives: The Broselow tape is a length-based tool used for the rapid estimation of pediatric weight and was developed to reduce dosage-related errors during emergencies. This study seeks to assess the accuracy of the Broselow tape and age-based formulas in predicting weights of South Sudanese children of varying nutritional status.

Methods: This was a retrospective, cross-sectional study using data from existing acute malnutrition screening programs for children less than 5 years of age in South Sudan. Using anthropometric measurements, actual weights were compared with estimated weights from the Broselow tape and three age-based formulas. Mid-upper arm circumference was used to determine if each child was malnourished. Broselow accuracy was assessed by the percentage of measured weights falling into the same color zone as the predicted weight. For each method, accuracy was assessed by mean percentage error and percentage of predicted weights falling within 10% of actual weight. All data were analyzed by nutritional status subgroup.

Results: Only 10.7% of malnourished and 26.6% of nonmalnourished children had their actual weight fall within the Broselow color zone corresponding to their length. The Broselow method overestimated weight by a mean of 26.6% in malnourished children and 16.6% in nonmalnourished children (p < 0.001). Age-based formulas also overestimated weight, with mean errors ranging from 16.2% over actual weight (Advanced Pediatric Life Support in nonmalnourished children) to 70.9% over actual (Best Guess in severely malnourished children).

Conclusions: The Broselow tape and age-based formulas selected for comparison were all markedly inaccurate in both the nonmalnourished and the malnourished populations studied, worsening with increasing malnourishment. Additional studies should explore appropriate methods of weight and dosage estimation for populations of low- and low-to-middle-income countries and regions with a high prevalence of malnutrition.

MeSH terms

  • Body Height*
  • Body Weight*
  • Body Weights and Measures / instrumentation*
  • Child Welfare / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Malnutrition / diagnosis*
  • Nutritional Status
  • Retrospective Studies
  • South Sudan