Harvard Medical School Department of Global Health and Social Medicine COVID-19 seminar series: COVID and surgical, anesthetic and obstetric care

On May 21, 2020, the Harvard Program in Global Surgery and Social Change (PGSSC) hosted a webinar as part of the Harvard Medical School Department of Global Health and Social Medicine’s COVID-19 webinar series. The goal of PGSSC’s virtual webinar was to share the experiences of surgical, anesthesia, and obstetric (SAO) providers on the frontlines of the COVID pandemic, from both high-income countries (HICs), such as the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Providers shared not only their experiences delivering SAO care during this global pandemic, but also solutions and innovations they and their colleagues developed to address these new challenges. Additionally, the seminar explored the relationship between surgery and health system strengthening and pandemic preparedness, and outlined the way forward, including a roadmap for prioritization and investment in surgical system strengthening. Throughout the discussion, other themes emerged as well, such as the definition of elective surgery and its implications during a persistent global pandemic, the safe and ethical reintroduction of surgical services, and the social inequities exposed by the stress placed on health systems by COVID-19. These proceedings document the perspectives shared by participants through their invited lectures as well as through the panel discussion at the end of the seminar.

The practices of aseptic technique of perioperative nurses in operation room to prevent surgical site infection : integrative literature review

Surgical site infections are the most common preventable health care-associated infections. However, the complications of SSIs are associated with additional inpatient stay costs, morbidity, and mortality. Perioperative nurses must be well-educated and well-trained to perform aseptic technique for preventing SSIs as well as facilitating safe surgical procedures for patients. Aseptic technique practices involve the performance of hand hygiene, donning gloves, applying surgical attire, preoperative aseptic skin preparation, aseptic instrument preparation, and aseptic environment maintenance.

The thesis aims to explore which elements are related to the perioperative nurses’ practices in aseptic technique in operation room, regarding the prevention of SSIs and how these practices affect to the outcomes of SSIs.

The purpose of this thesis is to promote understanding and awareness of aseptic technique in operation room, which contributes to SSI prevention. Particularly, the study is beneficial for senior nursing students and graduated nurses as a holistic picture of aseptic technique for further specific research related to this topic.

A combination of qualitative and quantitative methods was executed in this literature review. The data search and collection processes are mainly from electronic databases as EBSCO, SAGE, and PubMed in association with the consideration of inclusion and exclusion criteria. The year publication was from 2010 to 2020 in order to meet the requirement of timely and update knowledge provision. Inductive content analysis was conducted to analyse collected data and generate appropriate categories relevant to research questions.

Regard of SSI prevention, double set of sterile gloves is recommended in clinical practice to decrease the possibility of inner gloving perforation and bacterial transmission inside out. Surgical hand rubbing with alcohol-based disinfection solution is more preferred than traditional scrubbing. Despite insufficient evidence, surgical attire, including gown, surgical headgear, and SMs is routinely recommended in clinical practice compliance. If necessary, hair removal with clippers is preferable than razors. Shoe covers, a back-and-forth technique in skin preparation, adhesive surgical drapes were supported by a very low level of evidence. Meanwhile, staff movements, door openings, temperature, and airflow have been suggested to affect the integrity of the sterile field by a moderate amount of evidence. A minor point was also pointed out that 30-47% of entries and exits from the OR are unnecessary.

Intersectional social-economic inequalities in breast cancer screening in India: analysis of the National Family Health Survey

Breast cancer incidence rates are increasing in developing countries including India. With 1.3 million new cases of cancer been diagnosed annually, breast cancer is the most common women’s cancer in India. India’s National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) data 2015–2016 shows that only 9.8% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 had ever undergone breast examination (BE). Further, access to screening and treatment is unequally distributed, with inequalities by socio-economic status. It is unclear, however, if socio-economic inequalities in breast examination are similar across population subgroups.

We compared BE coverage in population sub-groups categorised by place of residence, religion, caste/tribal groups, education levels, age, marital status, and employment status in their intersection with economic status in India. We analysed data for 699,686 women aged 15–49 using the NFHS-4 data set conducted during 2015–2016. Descriptive (mean, standard errors, and confidence intervals) of women undergoing BE disaggregated by dimensions of inequality (education, caste/tribal groups, religion, place of residence) and their intersections with wealth were computed with national weights using STATA 12. Chi-square tests were performed to assess the association between socio-demographic factors and breast screening. Additionally, the World Health Organisation’s Health Equity Assessment Toolkit Plus was used to compute summary measures of inequality: Slope index for inequality (SII) and Relative Concentration Indices (RCI) for each intersecting dimension.

BE coverage was concentrated among wealthier groups regardless of other intersecting population subgroups. Wealth-related inequalities in BE coverage were most pronounced among Christians (SII; 20.6, 95% CI: 18.5–22.7), married (SII; 14.1, 95% CI: 13.8–14.4), employed (SII: 14.6, 95%CI: 13.9, 15.3), and rural women (SII; 10.8, 95% CI: 10.5–11.1). Overall, relative summary measures (RCI) were consistent with our absolute summary measures (SII).

Breast examination coverage in India is concentrated among wealthier populations across population groups defined by place of residence, religion, age, employment, and marital status. Apart from this national analysis, subnational analyses may also help identify strategies for programme rollout and ensure equity in women’s cancer screening.

Outcomes of Renal Trauma in Indian Urban Tertiary Healthcare Centres: A Multicentre Cohort Study

Renal trauma is present in 0.5–5% of patients admitted for trauma. Advancements in radiologic imaging and minimal-invasive techniques have led to decreased need for surgical intervention. We used a large trauma cohort to characterise renal trauma patients, their management and outcomes.

We analysed “Towards Improved Trauma Care Outcomes in India” cohort from four urban tertiary public hospitals in India between 1st September 2013 and 31st December 2015. The data of patients with renal trauma were extracted using International Classification of Diseases 10 codes and analysed for demographic and clinical details.

A total of 16,047 trauma patients were included in this cohort. Abdominal trauma comprised 1119 (7%) cases, of which 144 (13%) had renal trauma. Renal trauma was present in 1% of all the patients admitted for trauma. The mean age was 28 years (SD-14.7). A total of 119 (83%) patients were male. Majority (93%) were due to blunt injuries. Road traffic injuries were the most common mechanism (53%) followed by falls (29%). Most renal injuries (89%) were associated with other organ injuries. Seven of the 144 (5%) patients required nephrectomy. Three patients had grade V trauma; all underwent nephrectomy. The 30-day in-hospital mortality, in patients with renal trauma, was 17% (24/144).

Most renal trauma patients were managed nonoperatively. 89% of patients with renal trauma had concomitant injuries. The renal trauma profile from this large cohort may be generalisable to urban contexts in India and other low- and middle-income countries.

Association between government policy and delays in emergent and elective surgical care during the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil: a modeling study

The impact of public health policy to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on access to surgical care is poorly defined. We aim to quantify the surgical backlog during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Brazilian public health system and determine the relationship between state-level policy response and the degree of state-level delays in public surgical care.

Monthly estimates of surgical procedures performed per state from January 2016 to December 2020 were obtained from Brazil’s Unified Health System Informatics Department. Forecasting models using historical surgical volume data before March 2020 (first reported COVID-19 case) were constructed to predict expected monthly operations from March through December 2020. Total, emergency, and elective surgical monthly backlogs were calculated by comparing reported volume to forecasted volume. Linear mixed effects models were used to model the relationship between public surgical delivery and two measures of health policy response: the COVID-19 Stringency Index (SI) and the Containment & Health Index (CHI) by state.

Between March and December 2020, the total surgical backlog included 1,119,433 (95% Confidence Interval 762,663–1,523,995) total operations, 161,321 (95%CI 37,468–395,478) emergent operations, and 928,758 (95%CI 675,202–1,208,769) elective operations. Increased SI and CHI scores were associated with reductions in emergent surgical delays but increases in elective surgical backlogs. The maximum government stringency (score = 100) reduced emergency delays to nearly zero but tripled the elective surgical backlog.

Strong health policy efforts to contain COVID-19 ensure minimal reductions in delivery of emergent surgery, but dramatically increase elective backlogs. Additional coordinated government efforts will be necessary to specifically address the increased elective backlogs that accompany stringent responses.

Training programme in gasless laparoscopy for rural surgeons of India (TARGET study) – Observational feasibility study

Benefits of laparoscopic surgery are well recognised but uptake in rural settings of low- and middle-income countries is limited due to implementation barriers. Gasless laparoscopy has been proposed as an alternative but requires a trained rural surgical workforce to upscale. This study evaluates a feasibility of implementing a structured laparoscopic training programme for rural surgeons of North-East India.

A 3-day training programme was held at Kolkata Medical College in March 2019. Laparoscopic knowledge and Fundamentals of Laparoscopic Skills (FLS) were assessed pre and post simulation training using multiple choice questions and the McGill Inanimate System for Training and Evaluation of Laparoscopic Skills (MISTELS), respectively. Competency with an abdominal lift device was assessed using the Objective Structured Assessment of Technical Skills (OSATS) and live operating performance via the Global Operative Assessment of Laparoscopic Skills (GOALS) scores during live surgery. Costs of the training programme and qualitative feedback were evaluated.

Seven rural surgeons participated. There was an improvement in knowledge acquisition (mean difference in MCQ score 5.57 (SD = 4.47)). The overall normalised mean MISTELS score for the FLS tasks improved from 386.02 (SD 110.52) pre-to 524.40 (SD 94.98) post-training (p = 0.09). Mean OSATS score was 22.4 out of 35 (SD 3.31) indicating competency with the abdominal lift device whilst a mean GOALS score of 16.42 out of 25 (SD 2.07) indicates proficiency in performing diagnostic laparoscopy using the gasless technique during live operating. Costs of the course were estimated at 354 USD for trainees and 461 USD for trainers.

Structured training programme in gasless laparoscopy improves overall knowledge and skills acquisition in laparoscopic surgery for rural surgeons of North-East India. It is feasible to deliver a training programme in gasless laparoscopy for rural surgeons. Larger studies are needed to assess the benefits for wider adoption in a similar context.

Role of General Practitioners in transforming surgical care in rural Nepal – A descriptive study from eastern Nepal.

Introduction: Nepal is a low-to-middle-income country (LMIC) with a predominantly rural population. Almost 10-20% of patients presenting to hospital require surgical care. The availability of skilled human resources in managing surgical care in rural areas of Nepal has to expand to meet this need. The objective of this study is to describe and demonstrate how General Practitioners (GPs) can be upskilled to provide surgical care in rural district hospitals in Nepal.

Method: It is a retrospective review of all surgical procedures performed by GPs from 1st February 2016 to 31st January 2021 at Charikot hospital. Data was collected from a prospectively maintained Electronic Health Record (EHR) system (Bahmini). Details of data collected included name of the procedure and its respective specialty. GP Task shifting and targeted surgical training programs for common orthopedic procedures and pediatric herniotomy were described in detail.

Result: A wide range of surgical procedures were performed by GPs over 5 years. This included interventions for obstetric emergencies, trauma and orthopedics, gynecological issues, general surgery of adult and childhood. A total of 2037 surgeries were performed by GPs including: Cesarean section 25%, 19.7% were orthopedics surgeries followed by 13.5% of mesh repair for abdominal hernia, 9.3% eversion of sac for Hydrocele, 8.7% appendectomy, 5.2% hysterectomy, 3% of pediatric herniotomy and others.

Conclusion: GPs can be further trained to perform important common surgical procedures to improve access to surgical care for rural communities.

Incidence patterns, care continuum and impact of treatment on survival among women with breast cancer in Ghana and the United States

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women worldwide. Of the five breast cancer subtypes, triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is the most aggressive subtype. Black women in the US and Ghana are more likely to be diagnosed with TNBC, at young ages and advanced stages. Combining information from Ghana and the US, this project identified the breast cancer care continuum in Ghana, examined the breast cancer incidence patterns in Ghana and the US and assessed the optimal surgical treatment for TNBC. In the first manuscript, we examined how women in Ghana navigate the healthcare system and factors that influence their decisions and ability to seek and access breast cancer care. We interviewed thirty-one women diagnosed with breast cancer in Kumasi, Ghana. Based on the findings from the interviews, we presented a framework showing specific steps in the pathways and how women transition from one step to another. In the second manuscript, we assessed factors explaining the younger age at breast cancer diagnosis among Ghanaian women compared to women in the US. To achieve these aims we analyzed breast cancer data from the Kumasi Cancer Registry, the only population-based cancer registry in Ghana, and compared it to the US Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) data. Population age structure, screening and cohort effects explain the younger age at breast cancer diagnosis among women in Ghana In the third manuscript, we examined whether the poor prognosis of TNBC warrants a more aggressive surgical approach and whether there is value in expanded use of radiation therapy among women with TNBC who receive mastectomy. We found that breast conserving surgery followed by radiotherapy is an effective treatment for women with early-stage TNBC. Findings from this dissertation are timely due to the rapidly rising burden of breast cancer in sub-Saharan Africa and persistent disparities in the US.

Evaluation and usability study of low-cost laparoscopic box trainer “Lap-Pack”: a 2-stage multicenter cohort study

Laparoscopic training is restricted in low resource settings due to limited access to specialist training equipment and financial constraints. This study aimed to evaluate simulation skills and usability of an original low-cost laparoscopic trainer, the “Lap-Pack,” developed at the University of Leeds, UK.

Stage I evaluation was conducted in Kolkata (India) between March, 12 and 14, 2019. Laparoscopic simulation training was based on the 5 domains of fundamentals of laparoscopic surgery (FLS), which assessed skill acquisition across 7 rural surgeons from North-East India. The McGill Inanimate System for Training and Evaluation of Laparoscopic Skills (MISTELS) criteria was used to statistically analyze trainee performance between pretraining and posttraining sessions. Also, Lap-Pack was qualitatively compared with a commercial box trainer, Inovus Pyxus HD (IPHD). Stage II involved a multi-center usability study in 2 centers of India and the United Kingdom (2019). Seventy-eight participants performed 2 FLS tasks using Lap-Pack and provided scores on a 25-point questionnaire, including a preestablished Face-Validity Criteria and 4 evaluation categories—Usability, Camera, View, and, Material.

In stage I, the total posttraining MISTELS score for Lap-Pack was higher, that is 773.37 (SD: 183.67) than pretraining score, that is 351.2 (SD: 471.5). The posttraining scores showed laparoscopic skill acquisition with statistically significant (P<0.05) difference for precision cutting, intracorporeal and extracorporeal knot. In stage II, Lap-Pack scored highly in Face-Validity with a combined mean score of 4.81 [95% confidence interval (CI): 4.52–5.09, P<0.05] out of a possible 6. It scored highest (scale: 1=low to 7=high) in Usability 6.14 (95% CI: 6.05–6.22, P<0.05) and Camera 6.14 (95% CI: 6.01–6.27, P<0.05). The “Lightweight” (6.46, 95% CI: 6.32–6.60, P<0.05) and “Portability” (6.35, 95% CI: 6.18–6.51, P<0.05) features of Lap-Pack were appreciated.

The Lap-Pack is a suitable low fidelity simulator for laparoscopic training in a low-resource setting.

Estimating the Specialist Surgical Workforce Density in South Africa

Background: South Africa is an upper middle-income country with inequitable access to healthcare. There is a maldistribution of doctors between the private and public sectors, the latter which serves 86% of the population but has less than half of the human resources.

Objective: The objective of this study was to estimate the specialist surgical workforce density in South Africa.

Methods: This was a retrospective record-based review of the specialist surgical workforce in South Africa as defined by registration with the Health Professionals Council of South Africa for three cadres: 1) surgeons, and 2) anaesthesiologists, and 3) obstetrician/gynaecologists (OBGYN).

Findings: The specialist surgical workforce in South Africa doubled from 2004 (N = 2956) to 2019 (N = 6144). As of December 2019, there were 3096 surgeons (50.4%), 1268 (20.6%) OBGYN, and 1780 (29.0%) anaesthesiologists. The specialist surgical workforce density in 2019 was 10.5 per 100,000 population which ranged from 1.8 in Limpopo and 22.8 per 100,000 in Western Cape province. The proportion of females and those classified other than white increased between 2004–2019.

Conclusion: South Africa falls short of the minimum specialist workforce density of 20 per 100,000 to provide adequate essential and emergency surgical care. In order to address the current and future burden of disease treatable by surgical care, South Africa needs a robust surgical healthcare system with adequate human resources, to translate healthcare services into improved health outcomes.