Improving capacity and access to neurosurgery in sub-Saharan Africa using a twinning paradigm pioneered by the Swedish African Neurosurgical Collaboration

Background: The unmet need for neurosurgery in sub-Saharan Africa is staggering. Resolving this requires strategies that synergize salient local resources with tailored foreign help. This study is a trial of a twinning model adopted by the Swedish African Neurosurgical Collaboration (SANC).

Methods: A multi-step neurosurgical twinning technique, International Neurosurgical Twinning Modeled for Africa (INTIMA), developed through a collaboration between African and Swedish neurosurgical teams was adopted for a neurosurgical mission in March 2019. The pioneering steps are evaluated together with data of treated patients prospectively acquired using SPSS Chicago Inc., Version 23. Associations were analyzed using chi-square tests, while inferences were evaluated at 95% level of significance.

Results: The SANC global neurosurgery mission targeted microsurgical brain tumor resection. Fifty-five patients were operated on during the mission and subsequent 3 months. Patients’ ages ranged from 3 months to 69 years with a mean of 30.6 ± 2.1 years 95% CL. Seven cases were performed during the first mission, while 48 were performed after the mission. Compared to 3 months before SANC when only 9 brain tumors were resected, more tumors were resected (n = 25) within the 3 consecutive months from the mission (X2 = 14.2, DF = 1, P = 0.000). Thirty-day mortality following tumor resection was also lower, X2 = 4.8, DF = 1, P = 0.028.

Conclusion: Improvements in capacity and short-term outcome define our initial pioneering application of a neurosurgical twinning paradigm pioneered by SANC.

The mobile surgical outreach program for management of patients with genital fistula in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Objective
To describe components of the mobile surgical outreach (MSO) program as a model of care delivery for women with genital fistula; present program results; and discuss operational strengths and challenges.

Methods
A retrospective observational study of routinely collected health data from women treated via the MSO program (2013–2018). The program was developed at Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo to meet the needs of women with fistula living in remote provinces, where travel is prohibited. It includes healthcare delivery, medico‐surgical training, and community sensitization components.

Results
The MSO team cared for 1517 women at 41 clinic sites across 18 provinces over the study period. Average age at presentation was 31 years (range, 1–81 years). Most women (n=1359, 89.6%) presented with vesicovaginal fistula. Most surgeries were successful, and few women reported residual incontinence postoperatively. Local teams were receptive and engaged in clinical skills training and public health education efforts.

Conclusion
The MSO program addresses the backlog of patients awaiting fistula surgery and provides a template for a national strategic plan to treat and ultimately end fistula in DRC. It offers a patient‐centered approach that brings medico‐surgical care and psychosocial support to women with fistula in their own communities.

Availability, procurement, training, usage, maintenance and complications of electrosurgical units and laparoscopic equipment in 12 African countries

Background: Strategies are needed to increase the availability of surgical equipment in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This study was undertaken to explore the current availability, procurement, training, usage, maintenance and complications encountered during use of electrosurgical units (ESUs) and laparoscopic equipment.

Methods: A survey was conducted among surgeons attending the annual meeting of the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA) in December 2017 and the annual meeting of the Surgical Society of Kenya (SSK) in March 2018. Biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs) were surveyed and maintenance records collected in Kenya between February and March 2018.

Results: Among 80 participants, there were 59 surgeons from 12 African countries and 21 BMETs from Kenya. Thirty-six maintenance records were collected. ESUs were available for all COSECSA and SSK surgeons, but only 49 per cent (29 of 59) had access to working laparoscopic equipment. Reuse of disposable ESU accessories and difficulties obtaining carbon dioxide were identified. More than three-quarters of surgeons (79 per cent) indicated that maintenance of ESUs was available, but only 59 per cent (16 of 27) confirmed maintenance of laparoscopic equipment at their centre.

Conclusion: Despite the availability of surgical equipment, significant gaps in access to maintenance were apparent in these LMICs, limiting implementation of open and laparoscopic surgery.

Incidence of unintended pregnancy among female sex workers in low-income and middle-income countries: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

To determine the incidence of unintended pregnancy among female sex workers (FSWs) in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs).We searched MEDLINE, PsychInfo, Embase and Popline for papers published in English between January 2000 and January 2016, and Web of Science and Proquest for conference abstracts. Meta-analysis was performed on the primary outcomes using random effects models, with subgroup analysis used to explore heterogeneity.Eligible studies targeted FSWs aged 15-49 years living or working in an LMIC.Studies were eligible if they provided data on one of two primary outcomes: incidence of unintended pregnancy and incidence of pregnancy where intention is undefined. Secondary outcomes were also extracted when they were reported in included studies: incidence of induced abortion; incidence of birth; and correlates/predictors of pregnancy or unintended pregnancy.Twenty-five eligible studies were identified from 3866 articles. Methodological quality was low overall. Unintended pregnancy incidence showed high heterogeneity (I²>95%), ranging from 7.2 to 59.6 per 100 person-years across 10 studies. Study design and duration were found to account for heterogeneity. On subgroup analysis, the three cohort studies in which no intervention was introduced had a pooled incidence of 27.1 per 100 person-years (95% CI 24.4 to 29.8; I2=0%). Incidence of pregnancy (intention undefined) was also highly heterogeneous, ranging from 2.0 to 23.4 per 100 person-years (15 studies).Of the many studies examining FSWs’ sexual and reproductive health in LMICs, very few measured pregnancy and fewer assessed pregnancy intention. Incidence varied widely, likely due to differences in study design, duration and baseline population risk, but was high in most studies, representing a considerable concern for this key population. Evidence-based approaches that place greater importance on unintended pregnancy prevention need to be incorporated into existing sexual and reproductive health programmes for FSWs.CRD42016029185.

Essential fracture and orthopaedic equipment lists in low resource settings in Africa.

Low/middle-income countries (LMICs) have a growing need for trauma and orthopaedic (T&O) surgical interventions but lack surgical resources. Part of this is due to the high amount of road traffic accidents in LMICs. We aimed to develop recommendations for an essential list of equipment for three different levels of care providers.The Delphi method was used to achieve consensus on essential and desirable T&O equipment for LMICs. Twenty experts with T&O experience from LMICs underwent two rounds of questionnaires. Feedback was given after each round of questionnaires. The first round of questionnaire consisted of 45 items graded on a Likert scale with the second round consisting of 50 items. We used an electronic questionnaire to collect our data for three different levels of care: non-operative-based provider, specialist provider with operative fracture care and tertiary provider with operative fracture care and orthopaedics.After two rounds of questionnaires, recommendations for each level of care in LMICs included 4 essential equipment items for non-operative-based providers; 27 essential equipment items for specialist providers with operative fracture care and 46 essential equipment items for tertiary providers with operative fracture care and orthopaedic care.These recommendations can facilitate in planning of appropriate equipment required in an institution which in turn has the potential to improve the capacity and quality of T&O care in LMICs. The essential equipment lists provided here can help direct where funding for equipment should be targeted. Our recommendations can help with planning and organising national T&O care in LMICs to achieve appropriate capacity at all relevant levels of care.

Hospital Mortality FollowingTrauma: An Analysis of a Hospital-Based Injury Surveillance Registry in sub-SaharanAfrica

IMPORTANCE: Injuries are a significant cause of death and disability, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Health care systems in resource-poor countries lack personnel and are ill equipped to treat severely injured patients; therefore, many injury related deaths occur after hospital admission.
OBJECTIVES: This study evaluates the mortality for hospitalized trauma patients at a tertiary care hospital in Malawi.
DESIGN: This study is a retrospective analysis of prospectively collected trauma surveillance data. We performed univariate and bivariate analyses to describe the population and logistic regression analysis to identify predictors of mortality.
SETTING: Tertiary care hospital in sub-Saharan Africa.
PARTICIPANT: Patients with traumatic injuries admitted to Kamuzu Central Hospital between January 2010 and December 2012.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Predictors of in-hospital mortality.
RESULTS: The study population consisted of 7559 patients, with an average age of 27 years (18 years) and a male predominance of 76%. Road traffic injuries, falls, and assaults were the most common causes of injury. The overall mortality was 4.2%. After adjusting for age, sex, type and mechanism of injury, and shock index, head/spine injuries had the highest odds of mortality, with an odds ratio of 5.80 (2.71-12.40).
CONCLUSION AND RELEVANCE: The burden of injuries in sub-Saharan Africa remains high. At this institution, road traffic injuries are the leading cause of injury and injury-related death. The most significant predictor of in-hospital mortality is the presence of head or spinal injury. These findings may be mitigated by a comprehensive injury-prevention effort targeting drivers and other road users and by increased attention and resources dedicated to the treatment of patients with head and/or spine injuries in the hospital setting.

Barriers to Neurosurgical Training in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Need for a Phased Approach to Global Surgery Efforts to Improve Neurosurgical Care

BACKGROUND: Neurosurgery in low-income countries is faced with multiple challenges. Although the most common challenges include infrastructure and physical resource deficits, an underemphasized barrier relates to the methods and components of surgical training. The role of important aspects, including didactic surgical training, surgical decision-making, workshops, conferences, and assessment methods, has not been duly studied. Knowledge of these issues is a crucial step to move closer to strengthening surgical capacity in low-income countries.
METHODS: We designed an online survey to assess self-perceived and objectively measured barriers to neurosurgical training in various Sub-Saharan African countries. Key outcomes included perception toward adequacy of neurosurgery training and barriers to neurosurgical training at each individual site.
RESULTS: Only 37% of responders felt that their training program adequately prepared them for handling incoming neurosurgical cases. Top perceived limitations of neurosurgery training included lack of physical resources (25% of all responses), lack of practical workshops (22%), lack of program structure (18%), and lack of topic-specific lectures (10%).
CONCLUSIONS: Our results show that most responders believe their training program is inadequate and are interested in improving it through international collaborations. This implies that activities directed at strengthening surgical capacity must address this important necessity. One important strategy is the use of online educational tools. In consideration of the observed limitations in care, resources, and training, we recommend a phased approach to neurosurgical growth in low-income settings.

Trachomatous trichiasis and its management in endemic countries

Trichiasis is the sight-threatening consequence of conjunctival scarring in trachoma, the most common infectious cause of blindness worldwide. Trachomatous trichiasis is the result of multiple infections from childhood with Chlamydia trachomatis, which causes recurrent chronic inflammation in the tarsal conjunctiva. This produces conjunctival scarring, entropion, trichiasis, and ultimately blinding corneal opacification. The disease causes painful, usually irreversible sight loss. Over eight million people have trachomatous trichiasis, mostly those living in poor rural communities in 57 endemic countries. The global cost is estimated at US$ 5.3 billion. The WHO recommends surgery as part of the SAFE strategy for controlling the disease.We examine the principles of clinical management, treatment options, and the challenging issues of providing the quantity and quality of surgery that is needed in resource-poor settings.

Mechanical Heart Valve Replacement in a Low-Middle Income Region in the Modern Era: Midterm Results from a Sub-Saharan Center.

Background The management of patients with mechanical heart valves remains a major concern in populations with limited resources and medical facilities. This study reports the clinical outcomes of patients who underwent mechanical valve implantation in a sub-Saharan center over an 8-year period.

Methods A total of 291 mechanical valves were implanted in 233 patients in our institution between February 2008 and June 2016. A total of 117 patients underwent mitral valve replacement (MVR, 50.2%), 57 had aortic valve replacement (AVR, 24.4%), and 59 underwent both AVR and MVR (double valve replacement [DVR], 25.7%). The mean age at surgery was 27.6 ± 13.4 years (range, 7–62 years). Rheumatic etiology was found in 80.6% of the patients. Hospital mortality, late deaths, and valve-related events were reviewed at follow-up (839 patient-years, range: 1–9.4 years, complete in 93%).

Results The 30-day mortality was 4.7% (11/233). The overall survival at 1 and 6 years for the whole cohort was 88.8 ± 2.1% and 78.7 ± 3.3%, respectively. The 6-year survival for AVR, MVR, and DVR was 89.3 ± 4.8%, 73.2 ± 5.4%, and 79.3 ± 5.8%, respectively (p = 0.15). The freedom from neurologic events and anticoagulation-related bleeding at 6 years was 93.1 ± 2.1% and 78.9 ± 3.7%, respectively. No patient had reoperation at follow-up. No case of prosthetic valve thrombosis was identified. Eight full-term pregnancies were reported.

Conclusion This preliminary experience reports acceptable midterm results after mechanical heart valve implantation in our region. Both accurate surgical evaluation and strategies, either financial or social, facilitating patient’s education and medical assistance are crucial to ensure good results. Long-term follow-up and further studies comparing current nonthrombogenic options are warranted to draw reliable conclusions.

Linking household and health facility surveys to assess obstetric service availability, readiness and coverage: evidence from 17 low- and middle-income countries.

Improving access and quality of obstetric service has the potential to avert preventable maternal, neonatal and stillborn deaths, yet little is known about the quality of care received. This study sought to assess obstetric service availability, readiness and coverage within and between 17 low- and middle-income countries.We linked health facility data from the Service Provision Assessments and Service Availability and Readiness Assessments, with corresponding household survey data obtained from the Demographic and Health Surveys and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys. Based on performance of obstetric signal functions, we defined four levels of facility emergency obstetric care (EmOC) functionality: comprehensive (CEmOC), basic (BEmOC), BEmOC-2, and low/substandard. Facility readiness was evaluated based on the direct observation of 23 essential items; facilities “ready to provide obstetric services” had ?20 of 23 items available. Across countries, we used medians to characterize service availability and readiness, overall and by urban-rural location; analyses also adjusted for care-seeking patterns to estimate population-level coverage of obstetric services.Of the 111?500 health facilities surveyed, 7545 offered obstetric services and were included in the analysis. The median percentages of facilities offering EmOC and “ready to provide obstetric services” were 19% and 10%, respectively. There were considerable urban-rural differences, with absolute differences of 19% and 29% in the availability of facilities offering EmOC and “ready to provide obstetric services”, respectively. Adjusting for care-seeking patterns, results from the linking approach indicated that among women delivering in a facility, a median of 40% delivered in facilities offering EmOC, and 28% delivered in facilities “ready to provide obstetric services”. Relatively higher coverage of facility deliveries (?65%) and coverage of deliveries in facilities “ready to provide obstetric services” (?30% of facility deliveries) were only found in three countries.The low levels of availability, readiness and coverage of obstetric services documented represent substantial missed opportunities within health systems. Global and national efforts need to prioritize upgrading EmOC functionality and improving readiness to deliver obstetric service, particularly in rural areas. The approach of linking health facility and household surveys described here could facilitate the tracking of progress towards quality obstetric care.