Rheumatic heart disease prevalence in Namibia: a retrospective review of surveillance registers

Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) is the most commonly acquired heart disease in children and young people in low and middle-income settings. Fragile health systems and scarcity of data persist to limit the understanding of the relative burden of this disease. The aims of this study were to estimate the prevalence of RHD and to assess the RHD-related health care systems in Namibia.

Data was retrieved from outpatient and inpatient registers for all patients diagnosed and treated for RHD between January 2010 to December 2020. We used descriptive statistics to estimate the prevalence of RHD. Key observations and engagement with local cardiac clinicians and patients helped to identify key areas of improvement in the systems.

The outpatient register covered 0.032% of the adult Namibian population and combined with the cumulative incidence from the inpatient register we predict the prevalence of clinically diagnosed RHD to be between 0.05% and 0.10% in Namibia. Young people (< 18 years old) are most affected (72%), and most cases are from the north-eastern regions. Mitral heart valve impairment (58%) was the most common among patients. We identified weaknesses in care systems i.e., lack of patient unique identifiers, missing data, and clinic-based prevention activities.

The prevalence of RHD is expected to be lower than previously reported. It will be valuable to investigate latent RHD and patient follow-ups for better estimates of the true burden of disease. Surveillance systems needs improvements to enhance data quality. Plans for expansions of the clinic-based interventions must adopt the “Awareness Surveillance Advocacy Prevention” framework supported by relevant resolutions by the WHO.

Management of Congenital Heart Disease in Low-Income Countries: The Challenges and the Way Forward

In this article, we will discuss the management of congenital heart disease in low-income and low-middle income countries. First, we will review the epidemiology of congenital heart disease in the low-income and low-middle income countries and compare it to that in the high-income countries; cardiac disease is the commonest cause of death globally. The challenges that are facing the delivery of pediatric cardiac services will be discussed and some solutions will be suggested to improve these services. Pediatric cardiac services face huge economic, financial, social, and health care system delivery challenges. Collaboration between countries and non-governmental and philanthropy organizations is strongly needed to improve delivery of pediatric cardiac services in low-income and low-middle income countries. Planning of pediatric cardiac services in these countries should consider the context of each country or region; some countries managed to transform their pediatric cardiac services to be better.

An e-learning pediatric cardiology curriculum for Pediatric Postgraduate trainees in Rwanda: implementation and evaluation

Access to pediatric sub-specialty training is a critical unmet need in many resource-limited settings. In Rwanda, only two pediatric cardiologists are responsible for the country’s clinical care of a population of 12 million, along with the medical education of all pediatric trainees. To strengthen physician training opportunities, we developed an e-learning curriculum in pediatric cardiology. This curriculum aimed to “flip the classroom”, allowing residents to learn key pediatric cardiology concepts digitally before an in-person session with the specialist, thus efficiently utilizing the specialist for additional case based and bedside teaching.

We surveyed Rwandan and US faculty and residents using a modified Delphi approach to identify key topics in pediatric cardiology. Lead authors from Rwanda and the USA collaborated with OPENPediatrics™, a free digital knowledge-sharing platform, to produce ten core topics presented in structured videos spanning 4.5 h. A mixed methods evaluation was completed with Rwandan pediatric residents, including surveys assessing knowledge, utilization, and satisfaction. Qualitative analysis of structured interviews was conducted using NVivo.

Among the 43 residents who participated in the OPENPediatrics™ cardiology curriculum, 33 (77%) completed the curriculum assessment. Residents reported using the curriculum for a median of 8 h. Thirty-eight (88%) reported viewing the curriculum on their personal or hospital computer via pre-downloaded materials on a USB flash drive, with another seven (16%) reporting viewing it online. Twenty-seven residents viewed the course during core lecture time (63%). Commonly reported barriers to utilization included lack of time (70%), access to internet (40%) and language (24%). Scores on knowledge assessment improved from 66.2% to 76.7% upon completion of the curriculum (p < 0.001) across all levels of training, with most significant improvement in scores for PGY-1 and PGY-2 residents. Residents reported high satisfaction with the visuals, engaging presentation, and organization of the curriculum. Residents opined the need for expanded training material in cardiac electrocardiogram and echocardiogram and requested for slower narration by foreign presenters.

Video-based e-learning via OPENPediatrics™ in a resource-limited setting was effective in improving resident’s knowledge in pediatric cardiology with high levels of utilization and satisfaction. Expanding access to digital curriculums for other pediatric sub-specialties may be both an effective and efficient strategy for improving training in settings with limited access to subspecialist faculty.

Sequelae of Infective Endocarditis: Ruptured Aortic Root Abscess in a 38-Year-Old Female With Complicated Infective Endocarditis

A 38-year-old female with no known comorbidities or previous history of heart disease presented to the hospital with a three-day history of drowsiness and shortness of breath. Transthoracic echocardiography was performed, which showed large vegetations on aortic and tricuspid valves. In addition, there was severe aortic regurgitation with a possible abscess on the non-coronary cusp of the aortic valve.

The patient was admitted, and a provisional diagnosis of disseminated tuberculosis, Infective endocarditis (IE), and sepsis was made. Surgical intervention was planned. Intraoperative findings revealed that a fistula had formed connecting the aorta and right atrium, which was closed with an autologous graft derived from the patient’s pericardial tissue. Vegetations were removed, and the aortic valve was replaced with a metallic valve.

This case report presents a patient with complicated IE with a ruptured aortic root abscess. Mechanical complications associated with IE, such as in our case, are rare among patients with IE. However, surgical intervention should be considered as an option in complicated cases of IE when standard therapy fails.

Surviving the Struggle of COVID-19: Practical Recommendations for Pediatric/Adult Cardiology and Cardiac Surgical Programs in Resource-Limited Settings: a Review

Introduction: The primary aim of this systematic review is to provide perioperative strategies to help restore or preserve cardiovascular services under threat from financial and personnel constraints imposed by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Methods: The Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System Online, Excerpta Medica dataBASE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials/CCTR, and Google Scholar were systematically searched using the search terms “(cardiac OR cardiology OR cardiothoracic OR surgery) AND (COVID-19 or coronavirus OR SARS-CoV-2 OR 2019-nCoV OR 2019 novel coronavirus OR pandemic)”. Additionally, the webpages of relevant medical
societies, including the World Federation Society of Anesthesiologists, the Cardiothoracic Surgery Network, and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, were screened for relevant information.
Results: Whereas cardiac surgery and cardiology practices were reduced by 50–75% during the pandemic, mortality of patients with COVID-19 increased significantly. Healthcare workers are among those at high risk of infection with COVID-19.
Conclusion: Hospitals must provide maximum protective equipment and training on how to use it to healthcare workers for their mutual protection. Triage management of patients — which accounts for patient’s clinical status and risk-factor profile relatable to which services are available during the COVID-19 pandemic — is recommended. A strict reorganization of the hospital resources including preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative detailed protective measures is necessary to reduce probability of vector contamination, to protect patients and the cardiovascular teams, and to permit safe resumption of cardiological and cardiac surgical activity.

Culture Negative Sepsis after Pediatric Cardiac Surgery: Incidence and Outcomes

Background: A significant proportion of children after cardiac surgery with clinical features of blood stream sepsis do not have a positive blood culture and are managed as presumed ‘culture negative sepsis (CNS)’. There is little information on outcomes of CNS early after pediatric cardiac surgery. We sought to describe the incidence, outcomes and antibiotic utilization pattern of culture negative sepsis in children undergoing cardiac surgery.

Methods : 437 consecutive children who underwent cardiac surgery were studied. CNS was empirically defined as those in whom antibiotics were upgraded based on clinical and/or laboratory suspicion of blood stream sepsis with eventual negative blood culture. Outcomes were compared between three groups: normal controls, CNS and Culture Positive Sepsis (CPS).

Results: Incidence of CNS was 16% (71/437). The mortality was highest in CPS group (10.7%, 3/29); intermediate for CNS (2.9%, 2/71) and least for the normal group (1.2%, 4/337). Similarly, duration of ventilation and intensive care unit (ICU) length of stay (in hours) was highest for CPS (116 [45-271]; 288 [156-444]), intermediate for CNS (63 [23-112]; 192 [120-288]) and least for the normal group (18 [6-28]; 72 [48-120]). Third-tier antibiotics were initiated for 27 (40%) with CNS and 23 (92%) with CPS. Although the mean antibiotic duration for CNS (6.3±3.0 days) was less than CPS (9.09±5.12); p=0.022, 27.3% of CNS received antibiotics for more than one week.

Conclusion: The high incidence of CNS points towards the need for accurate biomarkers of bacterial sepsis after cardiac surgery. The relatively better outcomes of CNS merits consideration to rapidly de-escalate antibiotics for presumed sepsis after cardiac surgery.

Artificial intelligence for early diagnosis of lung cancer through incidental nodule detection in low- and middle-income countries-acceleration during the COVID-19 pandemic but here to stay

Although the coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic had profound pernicious effects, it revealed deficiencies in health systems, particularly among low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). With increasing uncertainty in healthcare, existing unmet needs such as poor outcomes of lung cancer (LC) patients in LMICs, mainly due to late stages at diagnosis, have been challenging-necessitating a shift in focus for judicious health resource utilization. Leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) for screening large volumes of pulmonary images performed for noncancerous reasons, such as health checks, immigration, tuberculosis screening, or other lung conditions, including but not limited to COVID-19, can facilitate easy and early identification of incidental pulmonary nodules (IPNs), which otherwise could have been missed. AI can review every chest X-ray or computed tomography scan through a trained pair of eyes, thus strengthening the infrastructure and enhancing capabilities of manpower for interpreting images in LMICs for streamlining accurate and early identification of IPNs. AI can be a catalyst for driving LC screening with enhanced efficiency, particularly in primary care settings, for timely referral and adequate management of coincidental IPN. AI can facilitate shift in the stage of LC diagnosis for improving survival, thus fostering optimal health-resource utilization and sustainable healthcare systems resilient to crisis. This article highlights the challenges for organized LC screening in LMICs and describes unique opportunities for leveraging AI. We present pilot initiatives from Asia, Latin America, and Russia illustrating AI-supported IPN identification from routine imaging to facilitate early diagnosis of LC at a potentially curable stage.

Knowledge, attitudes, and practices of cardiopulmonary rehabilitation among physiotherapists in Lebanon

Insufficient physical activity is one of the leading mortality risks worldwide for cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases. Physiotherapists (PT) are core healthcare professionals who play a major role in the prevention of disease complications and in inspiring a healthy lifestyle. To identify challenges in the promotion of cardiopulmonary rehabilitation (CR) in Lebanon, a survey was conducted among PT and physiotherapy students. The aim was to assess the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of CR in Lebanon.

The response rate was 46.1% (N = 322). Results show that 24.5% of respondents have good to excellent knowledge about CR. More than 60% of the respondents indicate possible barriers to starting a CR program, and one of two respondents identify the absence of skills as a main barrier. Findings highlight the importance of the role of PT as a mediator to increase a healthy lifestyle among patients and to promote the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and pulmonary diseases in the country.

Conclusions and recommendations
Our results support the evidence and clinical guidelines that PT play a major role by increasing the participation of patients in CR. A cost-effective CR program needs to be covered by the private and public system in Lebanon.

Development of the International Cardiac Rehabilitation Registry Including Variable Selection and Definition Process

Introduction: The International Council of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation (ICCPR) is developing a registry (ICRR) specifically for low-resource settings, where the burden of cardiovascular diseases is greatest and the need for program development highest. Herein we describe the development process, including the variable selection process.

Method: Following a literature search on registry best practices, a stepwise model for ICRR development was identified. Then, based on recommendations by Core Outcome Set-STAndards for Development (COS-STAD), we underwent a process to identify variables. All available CR registries were contacted to request their data dictionaries, reviewed CR quality indicators and guideline recommendations, and searched for common data elements and core outcome sets; 35 unique variables (including patient-reported outcomes) were selected for potential inclusion. Twenty-one purposively-identified stakeholders and experts agreed to serve on a Delphi panel. Panelists rated the variables in an online survey, and suggested potential additional variables; A webcall was held to reach consensus on which to include/exclude. Next, panelists provided input to finalize each variable definition, and rated which associated indicators should be used for benchmarking in registry dashboards and a patient lay summary; a second consensus call was held. A 1-month public comment period ensued.

Results: First, registry objectives and governance were approved by ICCPR, including data quality and access policies. The protocol was developed, for public posting. For variable selection, the overall mean rating was 6.1 ± 0.3/7; 12 were excluded, some of which were moved to a program survey, and others were revised. Two variables were added in an annual follow-up, resulting in 13 program and 16 patient-reported variables. Legal advice was sought to finalize ICRR agreements. Ethics approvals were obtained. Usability testing is now being initiated.

Conclusion: It is hoped this will serve to harmonize CR assessment internationally and enable quality improvement in CR delivery in low-resource settings.

Needs Assessment of Leadership and Governance in Cardiovascular Health in Nepal

Good governance and leadership are essential to improve healthy life expectancy particularly in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). This study aimed to epitomize the challenges and opportunities for leadership and good governance for the health system to address non-communicable diseases particularly cardiovascular diseases (CVD) in Nepal.
The objective of this study was to understand and document CVD programs and policy formulation processes and to identify the government capacity to engage stakeholders for planning and implementation purposes.
A national-level task force was formed to coordinate and steer the overall need assessment process. A qualitative study design was adopted using “The Health System Assessment Approach”. Eighteen indicators under six topical areas in leadership and governance in cardiovascular health were assessed using desk review and key informant interviews.
Voice and accountability exist in planning for health from the local level. The government has shown a strong willingness and has a strategy to work together with the private and non-government sectors in health however, the coordination has not been effective. There are strong rules in place for regulatory quality, control of corruption, and maintaining financial transparency. The government frequently relies on evidence generated from large-scale surveys for health policy formulation and planning but research in cardiovascular health has been minimum. There is a scarcity of cardiovascular disease-specific protocols.
Despite plenty of opportunities, much homework is needed to improve leadership and governance in cardiovascular health in Nepal. The government needs to designate a workforce for specific programs to help monitor the enforcement of health sector regulations, allocate enough funding to encourage CVD research, and work towards developing CVD-specific guidelines, protocols, and capacity building.