Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Pediatric Surgical Volume in Four Low- and Middle-Income Country Hospitals: Insights from an Interrupted Time Series Analysis

Background
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on surgical care delivery in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) has been challenging to assess due to a lack of data. This study examines the impact of COVID-19 on pediatric surgical volumes at four LMIC hospitals.

Methods
Retrospective and prospective pediatric surgical data collected at hospitals in Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Nigeria, and Zambia were reviewed from January 2019 to April 2021. Changes in surgical volume were assessed using interrupted time series analysis.

Results
6078 total operations were assessed. Before the pandemic, overall surgical volume increased by 21 cases/month (95% CI 14 to 28, p < 0.001). From March to April 2020, the total surgical volume dropped by 32%, or 110 cases (95% CI − 196 to − 24, p = 0.014). Patients during the pandemic were younger (2.7 vs. 3.3 years, p < 0.001) and healthier (ASA I 69% vs. 66%, p = 0.003). Additionally, they experienced lower rates of post-operative sepsis (0.3% vs 1.5%, p < 0.001), surgical site infections (1.3% vs 5.8%, p < 0.001), and mortality (1.6% vs 3.1%, p < 0.001).

Conclusions
During the COVID-19 pandemic, children’s surgery in LMIC saw a sharp decline in total surgical volume by a third in the month following March 2020, followed by a slow recovery afterward. Patients were healthier with better post-operative outcomes during the pandemic, implying a widening disparity gap in surgical access and exacerbating challenges in addressing the large unmet burden of pediatric surgical disease in LMICs with a need for immediate mitigation strategies.

Emergency Department Characteristics and Capabilities in Quito, Ecuador

Background: Emergency care is an essential part of a health system. Ecuador has recognized emergency medicine as a specialty and has two emergency medicine
residency training programs. However, little has been published about emergency department characteristics and capabilities in Ecuador.
Objective: We described the characteristics and capabilities of emergency departments (EDs) in Quito, Ecuador, in 2017, using the National Emergency Department Inventory
(NEDI) survey.
Methods: The 23-item survey included questions pertaining to ED characteristics, including visit volume, physical and administrative structure, clinical capabilities, technological resources, and consult personnel availability. This study included all EDs in Quito operating 24 hours/day, 7 days/week, and serving all patients seeking care. One representative from each ED was asked to complete the survey based on calendar year 2017.
Findings: Thirty EDs met the inclusion criteria, and 26 completed the survey (87% response). The median number of ED beds was 17 (range 2–61). Median annual visit
volume was 22,580 (range 1,680 to 129,676). All but two EDs provided care for both children and adults. Cardiac monitors were available in 88% of EDs, CT scanners in 68%,
and rooms for respiratory isolation in 31%. Most EDs could manage patients with general medicine (92%), general surgery (92%), and gynecology (88%) emergencies 24/7. Fewer were able to provide hand surgery (45%) and dental (28%) care 24/7. Typical length of stay was 1–6 hours in 65% and >6 hours in 31% of EDs. Half of EDs reported operating at full capacity and 27% reported operating over their capacity. When compared to private EDs, government EDs (public and social security) had a higher mean number of visits per year (50,090 government vs. 13,968 private, p 6 hours in government EDs vs. 86% of patient stays 1–6 hours in private EDs, p = 0.009).
Conclusions: EDs in Quito varied widely with respect to annual visit volume, the ability to treat different pathologies 24/7, and resources. Most EDs are functioning at or over capacity, and a substantial number have long lengths of stay. Further research and investment in emergency care could help increase the capacity and efficiency of EDs in Ecuador.

Is the Whole Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts? The Implementation and Outcomes of a Whole Blood Program in Ecuador

Background: Hemorrhagic shock is a major cause of mortality in low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs). Many institutions in LMICs lack the resources to adequately prescribe balanced resuscitation. This study aims to describe the implementation of a whole blood program in Latin America and discuss the outcomes of the patients that received whole blood (WB).

Methods: We conducted a retrospective review of patients resuscitated with WB from 2013-2019. Five units of O+ WB were made available on a consistent basis for patients presenting in hemorrhagic shock. Variables collected included: sex, age, service treating the patient, units of WB administered, units of components administered, admission vital signs, admission hemoglobin, Shock Index, intraoperative crystalloid and colloid administration, symptoms of transfusion reaction, length-of-stay and in-hospital mortality.

Results: The sample includes a total of 101 patients, 57 of whom were trauma and acute care surgery (TACS) patients and 44 of whom were obstetrics and gynecology patients. No patients developed symptoms consistent with a transfusion reaction. Average shock index was 1.16 (±0.55). On average, patients received 1.66 (±0.80) units of whole blood. Overall mortality was 14/101 (13.86%) in the first 24 hours and 6/101 (5.94%) after 24 hours.

Conclusion: Implementing a WB protocol is achievable in LMICs. Whole blood allows for more efficient delivery of hemostatic resuscitation and is ideal for resource-restrained settings. To our knowledge, this is the first description of a whole blood program implemented in a civilian hospital in Latin America.