Validating the MUAC (Mid-upper arm circumference) Cut-off for Detection of Severe Acute Malnutrition in Children Aged 6-59 Months in Rural Maharashtra

Indian Pediatr. 2019 Mar 15;56(3):209-212.


Objective: To review the Mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) cut-off currently being used to identify Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) as currently defined using Weight-for-Height.

Methods: Cross-sectional study conducted in 24 villages of a Primary Health Centre in Wardha district of Maharashtra among 2650 children between the ages of 6 to 59 months.

Results: For identifying SAM, sensitivity of MUAC was 23.5% and specificity was 99.7% for cut-off <11.5 cm. Using Youden index, best Mid-upper arm circumference cut-off point to identify SAM was <13 cm with sensitivity of 74.5% and specificity of 92.7%. Using Receiver operating characteristics curve, best MUAC cut-off point was 12.8 cm with 74.5% sensitivity and 92.7% specificity. Area under curve was 0.88 (95%CI: 0.85-0.91).

Conclusion: The current MUAC cut-off of <11.5 cm for detecting SAM needs to be increased to ensure that children, who need referral for management of malnutrition, are not missed.

MeSH terms

  • Anthropometry / methods*
  • Arm / anatomy & histology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • India
  • Infant
  • Male
  • ROC Curve
  • Rural Population
  • Severe Acute Malnutrition / diagnosis*