Lymphatic filariasis (LF) is a mosquito-borne parasitic infection that causes significant disabling and disfiguring clinical manifestations. Hydrocoele (scrotal swelling) is the most common clinical condition, which affects an estimated 25 million men globally. The recommended strategy is surgical intervention, yet little is known about the impact of hydrocoele on men’s lives, and how it may change if they have access to surgery.
We prospectively recruited and followed-up men who underwent surgery for hydrocoele at six hospitals in an LF endemic area of Malawi in December 2015. Men were interviewed at hospitals pre-surgery and followed-up at 3-months and 6-months post-surgery. Data on demographic characteristics, clinical condition, barriers to surgery, post-surgery symptoms/complications and quality of life indicators were collected and analysed pre- and post-surgery, by age group and stage of disease (mild/moderate vs. severe), using chi-square tests and student’s t test (paired). 201 men were interviewed pre-surgery, 152 at 3-months and 137 at 6-months post-surgery. Most men had unilateral hydrocoeles (65.2%), mild/moderate stages (57.7%) with an average duration of 11.4 years. The most reported cause of hydrocoele was it being sexually transmitted (22.4%), and the main barrier to surgery was the cost (36.3%). Pre-surgery, a significant difference in the scrotum side affected was found by age group (X2 = 5.978, p = 0.05), and men with severe stage hydrocoele reported more problems with their quality of life than those with mild/moderate stage (t = 2.793; p = 0.0006). Post-surgery, around half of the men reported some pain/discomfort (55.9%), swelling (8.6%), bleeding (3.3%) and infection (5.9%), most of which had resolved at 3-months when the most significant improvements in their quality of life were found (t = 21.3902; p = 0.000). Post-surgery at 6 months all men reported no physical, social, psychological problems and took no time off work.
Surgery had a significant positive impact on many aspects of a patient’s life, and the expansion of this treatment to all those affected in LF endemic areas would greatly improve the quality of men’s and their families’ lives, and greatly contribute to the global goal of providing universal health care.