Embracing robotic surgery in low- and middle-income countries: Potential benefits, challenges, and scope in the future

Robotic surgery has applications in many medical specialties, including urology, general surgery, and surgical oncology. In the context of a widespread resource and personnel shortage in Low- and Middle-Income Countries(LMICs), the use of robotics in surgery may help to reduce physician burnout, surgical site infections, and hospital stays. However, a lack of haptic feedback and potential socioeconomic factors such as high implementation costs and a lack of trained personnel may limit its accessibility and application. Specific improvements focused on improved financial and technical support to LMICs can help improve access and have the potential to transform the surgical experience for both surgeons and patients in LMICs. This review focuses on the evolution of robotic surgery, with an emphasis on challenges and recommendations to facilitate wider implementation and improved patient outcomes.

Postoperative outcomes associated with surgical care for women in Africa: an international risk-adjusted analysis of prospective observational cohorts

Background
Improving women’s health is a critical component of the sustainable development goals. Although obstetric outcomes in Africa have received significant focus, non-obstetric surgical outcomes for women in Africa remain under-examined.

Methods
We did a secondary analysis of the African Surgical Outcomes Study (ASOS) and International Surgical Outcomes Study (ISOS), two 7-day prospective observational cohort studies of outcomes after adult inpatient surgery. This sub-study focuses specifically on the analysis of the female, elective, non-obstetric, non-gynaecological surgical data collected during these two large multicentre studies. The African data from both cohorts are compared with international (non-African) outcomes in a risk-adjusted logistic regression analysis using a generalised linear mixed-effects model. The primary outcome was severe postoperative complications including in-hospital mortality in Africa compared with non-African outcomes.

Results
A total of 1698 African participants and 18 449 international participants met the inclusion criteria. The African cohort were younger than the international cohort with a lower preoperative risk profile. Severe complications occurred in 48 (2.9%) of 1671, and 431 (2.3%) of 18 449 patients in the African and international cohorts, respectively, with in-hospital mortality after severe complications of 23/48 (47.9%) in Africa and 78/431 (18.1%) internationally. Women in Africa had an adjusted odds ratio of 2.06 (95% confidence interval, 1.17–3.62; P=0.012) of developing a severe postoperative complication after elective non-obstetric, non-gynaecological surgery, compared with the international cohort.

Conclusions
Women in Africa have double the risk adjusted odds of severe postoperative complications (including in-hospital mortality) after elective non-obstetric, non-gynaecological surgery compared with the international incidence.

Identification of risk factors for postoperative pulmonary complications in general surgery patients in a low-middle income country

Background
Postoperative pulmonary complications (PPCs) are an important cause of perioperative morbidity and mortality. Although risk factors for PPCs have been identified in high-income countries, less is known about PPCs and their risk factors in low- and middle-income countries, such as South Africa. This study examined the incidence of PPCs and their associated risk factors among general surgery patients in a public hospital in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa to inform future quality improvement initiatives to decrease PPCs in this clinical population.

Methods
A retrospective secondary analysis of adult patients with general surgery admissions from January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2017 was conducted using data from the health system’s Hybrid Electronic Medical Registry. The sample was comprised of 5352 general surgery hospitalizations. PPCs included pneumonia, atelectasis, acute respiratory distress syndrome, pulmonary edema, pulmonary embolism, prolonged ventilation, hemothorax, pneumothorax, and other respiratory morbidity which encompassed empyema, aspiration, pleural effusion, bronchopleural fistula, and lower respiratory tract infection. Risk factors examined were age, tobacco use, number and type of pre-existing comorbidities, emergency surgery, and number and type of surgeries. Bivariate and multivariable logistic regression models were conducted to identify risk factors for developing a PPC.

Results
The PPC rate was 7.8%. Of the 418 hospitalizations in which a patient developed a PPC, the most common type of PPC was pneumonia (52.4%) and the mortality rate related to the PPC was 11.7%. Significant risk factors for a PPC were increasing age, greater number of comorbidities, emergency surgery, greater number of general surgeries, and abdominal surgery.

Conclusions
PPCs are common in general surgery patients in low- and middle-income countries, with similar rates observed in high-income countries. These complications worsen patient outcomes and increase mortality. Quality improvement initiatives that employ resource-conscious methods are needed to reduce PPCs in low- and middle-income countries.

Standardization of Trauma, General Surgical Morbidity and Mortality Conferences: Development and Dissemination of a “Toolkit” in Peru

Background
Morbidity and Mortality (M&M) conferences allow clinicians to review adverse events and identify areas for improvement. There are few reports of structured M&M conferences in low- and middle-income countries and no report of collaborative efforts to standardize them.

Methods
The present study aims to gather general surgeons representing most of Peru’s urban surgical care and, in collaboration, with trauma quality improvement experts develop a M&M conferences toolkit with the expectation that its diffusion impacts their reported clinical practice. Fourteen general surgeons developed a toolkit as part of a working group under the auspices of the Peruvian General Surgery Society. After three years, we conducted an anonymous written questionnaire to follow-up previous observations of quality improvement practices.

Results
A four-component toolkit was developed: Toolkit component #1: Conference logistics and case selection; Toolkit component #2: Documenting form; Toolkit component #3: Presentation template; and Toolkit component #4: Code of conduct. The toolkit was disseminated to 10 hospitals in 2016. Its effectiveness was evaluated by comparing the results of surveys on quality improvement practices conducted in 2016, before toolkit dissemination (101 respondents) and 2019 (105 respondents). Lower attendance was reported by surgeons in 2019. However, in 2019, participants more frequently described “improve the system” as the perceived objective of M&M conferences (70.5% vs. 38.6% in 2016; p < 0.001).

Conclusion
We established a toolkit for the national dissemination of a standardized M&M conference. Three years following the initial assessment in Peru, we found similar practice patterns except for increased reporting of “system improvement” as the goal of M&M conferences.

Delayed diagnostic evaluation of symptomatic breast cancer in sub-Saharan Africa: A qualitative study of Tanzanian women

Background
Women with breast cancer in sub-Saharan Africa are commonly diagnosed at advanced stages. In Tanzania, more than 80% of women are diagnosed with stage III or IV disease, and mortality rates are high. This study explored factors contributing to delayed diagnostic evaluation among women with breast cancer in Tanzania.

Methods
A qualitative study was performed at Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Twelve women with symptomatic pathologically proven breast cancer were recruited. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted in Swahili. Interviews explored the women’s journey from symptom recognition to diagnosis, including the influence of breast cancer knowledge and pre-conceptions, health seeking behaviors, psychosocial factors, preference for alternative treatments, and the contribution of culture and norms. Audio-recorded interviews were transcribed and translated into English. Thematic analysis was facilitated by a cloud-based qualitative analysis software.

Results
All women reported that their first breast symptom was a self-identified lump or swelling. Major themes for factors contributing to delayed diagnostic presentation of breast cancer included lack of basic knowledge and awareness of breast cancer and misconceptions about the disease. Participants faced barriers with their local primary healthcare providers, including symptom mismanagement and delayed referrals for diagnostic evaluation. Other barriers included financial hardships, fear and stigma of cancer, and use of traditional medicine. The advice and influence of family members and friends played key roles in healthcare-seeking behaviors, serving as both facilitators and barriers.

Conclusion
Lack of basic knowledge and awareness of breast cancer, stigma, financial barriers, and local healthcare system barriers were common factors contributing to delayed diagnostic presentation of breast cancer. The influence of friends and family also played key roles as both facilitators and barriers. This information will inform the development of educational intervention strategies to address these barriers and improve earlier diagnosis of symptomatic breast cancer in Tanzania.

Nutritional intake in acute care surgery patients in Kigali, Rwanda- A single institution descriptive analysis

INTRODUCTION: Nutrition is essential for health and healing, especially in the perioperative period. However, little is known about the nutritional intake of hospitalized patients in low and middle-income countries.
This paper aimed to characterize the composition and quantity of food in acute care surgery patients at a tertiary referral hospital in Rwanda.

METHODS: Acute care surgery patients were queried about nutritional intake during hospitalization from May 21, 2018, to June 3, 2018, for 100 patient days. Calorie and protein intake were estimated and compared to standards for an average Rwandan adult.
RESULTS: Median daily calorie intake was 1472 kcal/day (Interquartile range (IQR): 662, 2116). The median daily protein intake was 45.99 g (IQR: 24.38, 70.22). Assuming a calorie need of 25 kcal/kg/day and a protein need of 1g/kg/day, this is 98.1% of the estimated daily calorie needs and 76.7% of estimated daily protein needs. Estimating higher energy needs for a surgical patient, the daily intake is 70.0-81.9% of calorie needs and 51.1-63.9% of protein needs.

CONCLUSION: Overall, the calorie and protein intake for the average Rwandan acute care surgery patient were low compared to the needs of a 60 kg surgical patient. More education and accessibility to high-quality foods are needed to ensure adequate nutrition in the postoperative period to optimize clinical outcomes.

Surgical capacity assessment in the state of Amazonas using the surgical assessment tool. Cross-sectional study

Objective:
Brazil is a country with universal health coverage, yet access to surgery among remote rural populations remains understudied. This study assesses surgical care capacity among hospitals providing care for the rural populations in the Amazonas state of Brazil through in-depth facility assessments.

Methods:
a stratified randomized cross-sectional evaluation of hospitals that self-report providing surgical care in Amazonas was conducted from July 2016 to March 2017. The Surgical Assessment Tool (SAT) developed by the World Health Organization and the Program in Global Surgery and Social Change at Harvard Medical School was administered at remote hospitals, including a retrospective review of medical records and operative logbooks.

Results:
18 hospitals were surveyed. Three hospitals (16.6%) had no operating rooms and 12 (66%) had 1-2 operating rooms. 14 hospitals (77.8%) reported monitoring by pulse oximetry was always present and six hospitals (33%) never have a professional anesthesiologist available. Inhaled general anesthesia was available in 12 hospitals (66.7%), but 77.8% did not have any mechanical ventilation device. An average of 257 procedures per 100,000 were performed. 10 hospitals (55.6%) do not have a specific post-anesthesia care unit. For the regions covered by the 18 hospitals, with a population of 497,492 inhabitants, the average surgeon, anesthetist, obstetric workforce density was 6.4.

Conclusion:
populations living in rural areas in Brazil face significant disparities in access to surgical care, despite the presence of universal health coverage. Development of a state plan for the implementation of surgery is necessary to ensure access to surgical care for rural populations.

Implementation of a colorectal cancer screening intervention in Malaysia (CRC-SIM) in the context of a pandemic: study protocol

Introduction Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second most common cancer in Malaysia and cases are often detected late. Improving screening uptake is key in down-staging cancer and improving patient outcomes. The aim of this study is to develop, implement and evaluate an intervention to improve CRC screening uptake in Malaysia in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The evaluation will include ascertaining the budgetary impact of implementing and delivering the intervention.

Methods and analysis The implementation research logic model guided the development of the study and implementation outcome measures were informed by the ‘Reach, Effectiveness, Adoption, Implementation and Maintenance’ (RE-AIM) framework. This CRC screening intervention for Malaysia uses home-testing and digital, small media, communication to improve CRC screening uptake. A sample of 780 people aged 50–75 years living in Segamat district, Malaysia, will be selected randomly from the South East Asia Community Observatory (SEACO) database. Participants will receive a screening pack as well as a WhatsApp video of a local doctor to undertake a stool test safely and to send a photo of the test result to a confidential mobile number. SEACO staff will inform participants of their result. Quantitative data about follow-up clinic attendance, subsequent hospital tests and outcomes will be collected. Logistic regression will be used to investigate variables that influence screening completion and we will conduct a budget impact-analysis of the intervention and its implementation. Qualitative data about intervention implementation from the perspective of participants and stakeholders will be analysed thematically.

Ethics and dissemination Ethics approval has been granted by Monash University Human Research Ethics Committee (MUHREC ID: 29107) and the Medical Review and Ethics Committee (Reference: 21-02045-O7G(2)). Results will be disseminated through publications, conferences and community engagement activities.

Trial registration number National Medical Research Register Malaysia: 21-02045-O7G(2).

Relapse-free survival in Sudanese women with non-metastatic breast cancer

Background
Breast cancer (BC) is the most frequently diagnosed cancer and a major cause of cancer mortality in Sudan. However, there is lack of data related to BC relapse. Therefore, this study was undertaken to estimate the 5-year relapse free survival (RFS) rate and factors related to BC relapse in Sudanese women with non-metastatic BC.

Methods
Data of BC women with BC diagnosed and treated at the National Cancer Institute-University of Gezira during 2012 were retrieved from medical records. The cases were followed-up through hospital records and telephone contact. Survival functions were calculated using Kaplan-Meier method and compared by log-rank test. The prognostic factors were tested using univariate and multivariable Cox regression analyses.

Results
We included 168 women with median age of 45 years (range, 22–83 years). 53.5%of women had stage III at time of diagnosis, whereas 4.2% and 42.3% of women presented with stage I and stage II, respectively. At the end of 5 years follow-up, with median follow-up period of 64 months, 94 (56.0%) women were alive in remission, 11 (6.5%) were alive with BC relapse, 49 (29.2%) were dead, and survival status was unknown in 14 (8.3%) women. Most of the occurred relapses were distant relapses. The 5-year RFS was 59%. The independent predictors of relapse were: larger primary tumor size (HR:1.84, 95% CI: 1.54-5.48, p=0.018); involved axillary lymph nodes with tumour (HR: 2.91, 95% CI: 1.53–7.91, p=0.001); not receiving adjuvant radiotherapy (HR: 2.2, 95% CI: 1.22–3.95, p=0.009); and not receiving hormone therapy (HR: 1.67, 95% CI: 1.01–2.76, p= 0.046).

Conclusion
We found a high risk of BC relapse in our resource-constrained settings. Advanced stages, not receiving adjuvant radiotherapy, and not receiving adjuvant hormone therapy were independent predictors associated with worse 5-year RFS. Therefore, enhancing the early diagnosis of BC and improving timely access to appropriate treatments represent key approaches to achieving better treatment outcomes.

Crohn’s Disease Among the Poorest Billion: Burden of Crohn’s Disease in Low- and Lower-Middle-Income Countries

Background
To establish the epidemiology and patterns of care of Crohn’s Disease in low- and lower-middle-income countries.

Methods
A cross-sectional survey of gastroenterology providers in countries where the world’s poorest billion live was conducted to learn more about the state of diagnostic and treatment capacity for Crohn’s. Quantitative data were analyzed in R and Excel.

Results
A total of 46 survey responses from 15 countries were received, giving a response rate of 54.8%. All responses collected were from providers practicing in Africa and South Asia. The mean number of patients with Crohn’s cared for in the last year was 89.5 overall but ranged from 0 reported at one facility in Rwanda to 1000 reported at two different facilities in India. Overall, Crohn’s disease made up 20.6% of the inflammatory bowel disease diagnoses reported by survey respondents, with Africa exhibiting a larger proportion of Crohn’s compared to ulcerative colitis than Asia. Most providers reported that patients with Crohn’s have symptoms for 6–24 months prior to diagnosis and that 26–50% of their patients live in rural areas. The most reported diagnostic challenges are differentiating between Crohn’s and intestinal tuberculosis, poor disease awareness, and lack of trained pathologists. The most widely reported challenge in managing Crohn’s disease is patients’ inability to afford biologics, reported by 65% of providers.

Conclusion
Our study suggests there may be a greater burden of Crohn’s disease in low- and lower-middle-income countries than is indicated in prior literature. Respondents reported many challenges in diagnosing and treating Crohn’s disease.