Reducing surgical site infections and mortality among obstetric surgical patients in Tanzania: a pre-evaluation and postevaluation of a multicomponent safe surgery intervention

BMJ Glob Health. 2021 Dec;6(12):e006788. doi: 10.1136/bmjgh-2021-006788.


Introduction: Despite ongoing maternal health interventions, maternal deaths in Tanzania remain high. One of the main causes of maternal mortality includes postoperative infections. Surgical site infection (SSI) rates are higher in low/middle-income countries (LMICs), such as Tanzania, compared with high-income countries. We evaluated the impact of a multicomponent safe surgery intervention in Tanzania, hypothesising it would (1) increase adherence to safety practices, such as the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist (SSC), (2) reduce SSI rates following caesarean section (CS) and (3) reduce CS-related perioperative mortality rates (POMRs).

Methods: We conducted a pre-cross-sectional/post-cross-sectional study design to evaluate WHO SSC utilisation, SSI rates and CS-related POMR before and 18 months after implementation. Our interventions included training of inter-professional surgical teams, promoting use of the WHO SSC and introducing an infection prevention (IP) bundle for all CS patients. We assessed use of WHO SSC and SSI rates through random sampling of 279 individual CS patient files. We reviewed registers and ward round reports to obtain the number of CS performed and CS-related deaths. We compared proportions of individuals with a characteristic of interest during pre-implementation and post implementation using the two-proportion z-test at p≤0.05 using STATA V.15.

Results: The SSC utilisation rate for CS increased from 3.7% (5 out of 136) to 95.1% (136 out of 143) with p<0.001. Likewise, the proportion of women with SSI after CS reduced from 14% during baseline to 1% (p=0.002). The change in SSI rate after the implementation of the safe surgery interventions is statistically significant (p<0.001). The CS-related POMR decreased by 38.5% (p=0.6) after the implementation of safe surgery interventions.

Conclusion: Our findings show that our intervention led to improved utilisation of the WHO SSC, reduced SSIs and a drop in CS-related POMR. We recommend replication of the interventions in other LMICs.

Keywords: cross-sectional survey; hospital-based study; intervention study.

MeSH terms

  • Cesarean Section* / adverse effects
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Mortality
  • Pregnancy
  • Surgical Wound Infection* / epidemiology
  • Surgical Wound Infection* / etiology
  • Surgical Wound Infection* / prevention & control
  • Tanzania / epidemiology