Background: The provision of critical care services is essential to healthcare systems and increasingly a global health focus, but many hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa are unable to meet this need. Intensive care unit (ICU) mortality in this region is high, but studies describing the provision of critical care services are scarce. Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study of all patients admitted to the ICU at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre, Malawi, between September 1, 2013, and October 17, 2014. We summarized demographics, clinical characteristics, and outcomes, and analyzed factors associated with mortality. Results: Of 390 patients admitted to ICU during the study, 44.9 % of patients were male, and the median age was 22 years (IQR 6–35) years. Although most patients (73.1 %) were admitted with surgical diagnoses, the highest mortality was among patients admitted with sepsis (59.3 %), or obstetric (44.7 %) or medical (40.0 %) diagnoses. Overall ICU mortality was high (23.6 %). Conclusions: There is a shortage of data describing critical care in low-resource settings, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Surgical disease comprises the majority of ICU utilization in this study site, but medical and obstetric illness carried higher ICU mortality. These data may guide strategies for improving critical care in the region.
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