Ethical Dilemmas in Surgical Mission Trips During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This case is hypothetical and does not involve real patients or actual entities.

A long-running otolaryngology surgical teaching mission to Haiti was postponed in 2020 due to a combination of Haitian travel restrictions and American-based university travel bans during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Several months have passed since the postponement of this recurring trip, and the local Haitian ear, nose, and throat (ENT) team has reached out to the international surgical teaching team to express their desire for surgical mission trips to return. The backlog of patients that the local team feels could not be treated without assistance continues to grow.

The COVID-19 vaccine is now available in the United States, and most US-based health care practitioners have been vaccinated, including all medical volunteers involved in this trip. University-based travel bans have also been lifted. Few Haitian health care providers have been vaccinated. Local Haitian travel restrictions are no longer being enforced, and it is legally possible to travel to the island. The international team has obtained enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to run a self-sufficient trip, but local PPE resources remain scarce.

Should the international surgical team restart mission work at this time? If so, what criteria need to be met for humanitarian organizations to provide safe and ethical care in the COVID-19 era when global inequality remains regarding vaccine distribution?

Going Global: Interest in Global Health Among US Otolaryngology Residents

Background: To meet the rising interest in surgical global health, some surgical residency programs offer global health experiences. The level of interest in these programs, however, and their role in residency recruitment and career planning has not been systematically evaluated.

Objective: (1) Define interest in global health among Otolaryngology residents in the USA. (2) Assess engagement of Otolaryngology residencies in global health training. (3) Determine barriers to global health training in residency.

Methods: A survey questionnaire was developed and sent to all Otolaryngology Residency Program Directors for distribution to all current Otolaryngology residents in the US.

Results: A total of 91 complete surveys were collected. A majority of respondents felt that global health was either “very important” or “extremely important” (67%). Two-thirds of respondents had prior global health experience (68%). While 56% of respondents would definitely participate in a global health elective and 78% would likely or definitely participate, only 37% of residency programs offered a global health experience. The availability of a global health elective significantly correlated with residency match choice in respondents with previous global health experience. The three most common barriers to participation were insufficient time, insufficient funding, and lack of program.

Conclusion: Participation in bilateral and equitable international electives is a unique experience of personal and professional growth. There is an interest in these opportunities during residency training among Otolaryngology residents that is not reflected in availability within training programs. This suggests the need for development of humanitarian outreach exposure through global health experiences during surgical residency training.

Global head and neck surgery research during the COVID pandemic: A bibliometric analysis

Background
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, access to otolaryngology and head-and-neck surgery was limited in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The pandemic has increased the burden on LMIC health systems by causing unanticipated expenses, delayed care, and changes in research activity. We aimed to assess the landscape of global ENT research during the pandemic.

Materials and methods
The authors developed a search strategy composed of the following keywords: “otolaryngology,” “head and neck surgery,” and “low- and middle-income countries.” Then, they searched eleven citation databases via the Web of Science from January 01, 2020, to May 03, 2021. They imported the result as metadata into VosViewer and ran bibliometric analyses to identify the most influential institutions, countries, and themes.

Results
During the study period, 3077 articles were published. Two hundred eighty-nine articles (9%) mentioned COVID-19 explicitly. The second most common theme was pediatric ENT (223 articles, 7%). The United States had the most publications [1616 articles, 12,033 citations, and 2986 total link strength (TLS)], followed by China (336 articles, 10,981 citations, and 571 TLS). South Africa, the first African country, was fourth (302 articles, 699 citations, and 908 TLS), while Brazil, the first South American country, was seventh (158 articles, 582 citations, and 376 TLS). The most prolific institution was the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (186 articles, 1110 citations, and 674 TLS).

Conclusion
COVID-19 was the most common research theme during the pandemic, surpassing pediatric ENT.

Feasibility of establishing an infant hearing screening program and measuring hearing loss among infants at a regional referral hospital in south western Uganda

Introduction
Despite the high burden of hearing loss (HL) globaly, most countries in resource limited settings lack infant hearing screening programs(IHS) for early HL detection. We examined the feasibility of establishing an IHS program in this setting, and in this pilot program measured the prevalence of infant hearing loss (IHL) and described the characteristics of the infants with HL.

Methods
We assessed feasibility of establishing an IHS program at a regional referral hospital in south-western Uganda. We recruited infants aged 1 day to 3 months and performed a three-staged screening. At stage 1, we used Transient Evoked Oto-acoustic Emissions (TEOAEs), at stage 2 we repeated TEOAEs for infants who failed TEOAEs at stage 1 and at stage 3, we conducted Automated brainstem responses(ABRs) for those who failed stage 2. IHL was present if they failed an ABR at 35dBHL.

Results
We screened 401 infants, mean age was 7.2 days (SD = 7.1). 74.6% (299 of 401) passed stage 1, the rest (25.4% or 102 of 401) were referred for stage 2. Of those referred (n = 102), only 34.3% (35 of 102) returned for stage 2 screening. About 14.3% (5/35) failed the repeat TEOAEs in at least one ear. At stage 3, 80% (4 of 5) failed the ABR screening in at least one ear, while 25% (n = 1) failed the test bilaterally. Among the 334 infants that completed the staged screening, the prevalence of IHL was 4/334 or 12 per 1000. Risk factors to IHL were Newborn Special Care Unit (NSCU) admission, gentamycin or oxygen therapy and prematurity.

Conclusions
IHS program establishment in a resource limited setting is feasible. Preliminary data indicate a high prevalence of IHL. Targeted screening of infants at high risk may be a more realistic and sustainable initial step towards establishing IHS program s in a developing country like Uganda.

Timing of surgery following SARS‐CoV‐2 infection: an international prospective cohort study

Peri‐operative SARS‐CoV‐2 infection increases postoperative mortality. The aim of this study was to determine the optimal duration of planned delay before surgery in patients who have had SARS‐CoV‐2 infection. This international, multicentre, prospective cohort study included patients undergoing elective or emergency surgery during October 2020. Surgical patients with pre‐operative SARS‐CoV‐2 infection were compared with those without previous SARS‐CoV‐2 infection. The primary outcome measure was 30‐day postoperative mortality. Logistic regression models were used to calculate adjusted 30‐day mortality rates stratified by time from diagnosis of SARS‐CoV‐2 infection to surgery. Among 140,231 patients (116 countries), 3127 patients (2.2%) had a pre‐operative SARS‐CoV‐2 diagnosis. Adjusted 30‐day mortality in patients without SARS‐CoV‐2 infection was 1.5% (95%CI 1.4–1.5). In patients with a pre‐operative SARS‐CoV‐2 diagnosis, mortality was increased in patients having surgery within 0–2 weeks, 3–4 weeks and 5–6 weeks of the diagnosis (odds ratio (95%CI) 4.1 (3.3–4.8), 3.9 (2.6–5.1) and 3.6 (2.0–5.2), respectively). Surgery performed ≥ 7 weeks after SARS‐CoV‐2 diagnosis was associated with a similar mortality risk to baseline (odds ratio (95%CI) 1.5 (0.9–2.1)). After a ≥ 7 week delay in undertaking surgery following SARS‐CoV‐2 infection, patients with ongoing symptoms had a higher mortality than patients whose symptoms had resolved or who had been asymptomatic (6.0% (95%CI 3.2–8.7) vs. 2.4% (95%CI 1.4–3.4) vs. 1.3% (95%CI 0.6–2.0), respectively). Where possible, surgery should be delayed for at least 7 weeks following SARS‐CoV‐2 infection. Patients with ongoing symptoms ≥ 7 weeks from diagnosis may benefit from further delay

Otitis media with effusion in Africa‐prevalence and associated factors: A systematic review and meta‐analysis

Objectives
To estimate the overall and subgroup prevalence of otitis media with effusion (OME) in Africa, and identify setting‐specific predictors in children and adults.

Methods
PubMed, African Journals Online, African Index Medicus, Afrolib, SciELO, Embase, Scopus, Web of Science, The Cochrane Library, GreyLit and OpenGray were searched to identify relevant articles on OME in Africa, from inception to December 31st 2019. A random‐effects model was used to pool outcome estimates.

Results
Overall, 38 studies were included, with 27 in meta‐analysis (40 331 participants). The overall prevalence of OME in Africa was 6% (95% CI: 5%‐7%; I2 = 97.5%, P < .001). The prevalence was 8% (95% CI: 7%‐9%) in children and 2% (95% CI: 0.1%‐3%) in adolescents/adults. North Africa had the highest prevalence (10%; 95% CI: 9%‐13%), followed by West and Southern Africa (9%; 95% CI: 7%‐10% and 9%; 95% CI: 6%‐12% respectively), Central Africa (7%; 95% CI: 5%‐10%) and East Africa (2%; 95% CI: 1%‐3%). There was no major variability in prevalence over the last four decades. Cleft palate was the strongest predictor (OR: 5.2; 95% CI: 1.4‐18.6, P = .02). Other significant associated factors were age, adenoid hypertrophy, allergic rhinitis in children, and type 2 diabetes mellitus, low CD4 count in adults.

Conclusion
OME prevalence was similar to that reported in other settings, notably high‐income temperate countries. Health care providers should consider age, presence of cleft palate, adenoid hypertrophy and allergic rhinitis when assessing OME in children and deciding on a management plan. More research is required to confirm risk factors and evaluate treatment options.

A Novel and Simple Technique of Reconstructing the Central Arch Mandibular Defects-a Solution During the Resource-Constrained Setting of COVID Crisis

The current COVID 19 pandemic has a major impact on healthcare delivery globally. Oral cancer involving anterior arch of mandible is difficult to reconstruct and ideally, requires free fibular osteomyocutaneous flap. During this time of resource constraint situation, these free flaps are not a great choice, as it increases exposure of both patient and surgical team to the deadly virus. We are describing a novel method of reconstruction after resection of oral cancer involving anterior arch of mandible. In this new technique, we have reconstructed central arch defect by hanging bipaddle pectoralis major myocutaneous flap with orbicularis oris muscle using ethylene terephthalate suture. Operative time, early postoperative complications and early cosmetic and functional outcome were assessed. We have used this novel technique in eight patients of T4a oral cancer involving anterior arch of mandible and skin over chin. Mean operative time was 180 min. One patient had minor flap loss with surgical site infection (Clavien-Dindo grade I). In all patients, we were able to discharge all patients on eighth postoperative day. Cosmetic outcome and functional outcomes were mostly satisfactory. All patients were able to oppose their lips without any oral incompetence and drooling. Tongue mobility was good. There was no incidence of ‘Andy Gump deformity’. This is a feasible option for reconstructing anterior arch defect in resource- and time-limited setting of COVID 19 pandemic. This technique can also be used in comorbid conditions where it is not advisable to do very long surgery.

Changing the face of global health: short-term surgical trips

With the growth of global health awareness, global surgery has emerged as a key focus area. This article examines short-term surgical trips (STSTs) as one of the ways used to address some of the gaps in global surgery. It demonstrates the Kenyan experience in organising and participating in a short-term surgical trip with a 10-year history. Their experience has been that STSTs should be co-organised between the regional hosting surgeons and the visiting surgical team, with an emphasis on education rather that the ‘number of surgeries’ performed during each camp.

Evaluation of Portable Tablet-Based Audiometry in a South Indian Population

While a comprehensive booth audiogram is the gold standard for diagnosis of hearing loss, access to this may not be available in remote and low resource settings. The aims of this study were to validate a tablet-based audiometer in a tertiary medical center in India and explore its capacity in improving access to hearing healthcare. Subjects presenting to Ear–Nose–Throat clinics for conventional booth audiometry testing were recruited for subsequent tablet-based audiometric testing. Testing with the tablet was conducted in a non-sound-treated hospital clinic room. Bilateral air and bone conduction hearing threshold data from 250 through 4000 Hz were validated against conventional booth audiometry. In addition, a small feasibility study was conducted in rural clinics. 70 participants (37 adults and 33 children between the ages 5–18) were assessed. 69% were male, with a mean age of 29.7 years. Sensitivity and specificity for the tablet were 89% (95% CI 80–94%) and 70% (95% CI 56–82%), respectively. While median differences in air conduction thresholds between conventional and tablet audiograms showed statistical significance at 250, 500, and 1000 Hz (p < 0.001), the threshold results of the tablet audiometer were within 5 dB of the conventional audiogram and not clinically significant. Ten patients were successfully screened in rural clinics with tablet audiometry. Tablet portable audiometry is a valid tool for air and bone conduction threshold assessment outside of conventional sound booths. It can accurately identify hearing impairment and offers a screening tool for hearing loss in low resource settings.

Initial Experience Using 3-Dimensional Printed Models for Head and Neck Reconstruction in Haiti

This report describes the first use of a novel workflow for in-house computer-aided design (CAD) for application in a resource-limited surgical outreach setting. Preoperative computed tomography imaging obtained locally in Haiti was used to produce rapid-prototyped 3-dimensional (3D) mandibular models for 2 patients with large ameloblastomas. Models were used for patient consent, surgical education, and surgical planning. Computer-aided design and 3D models have the potential to significantly aid the process of complex surgery in the outreach setting by aiding in surgical consent and education, in addition to expected surgical applications of improved anatomic reconstruction.