Barriers to inguinal hernia repair in Ghana: prospective, multi-centre cohort study

Inguinal hernia (IH) is the most common general surgical pathology in Ghana with hernia repair rate very low. The objective was to assess patient-perceived barriers to IH repair in Ghana and identify predictors of experiencing delays until surgery. A multicenter prospective study was conducted during the Ghana Hernia Society outreach. Data regarding diagnosis using Kingsnorth’s classification of IH, age of patients, duration of hernia, reason for delay in repair, insurance status, American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) class, travel distance, region, hospital, and waiting times were obtained from patients and folders. Multivariable linear regression models were constructed to analyze delay until surgery and Kingsnorth’s classification while controlling for the covariates of age, insurance status, ASA class among others. The most common reasons were queues for surgery (23%), poverty (10%), and seeking traditional medicine (9%). On multivariate linear regression, increasing age and ASA class III were predictors of longer delays. Patients experienced significant increase of 1.1 years delay to surgery for every 10 year increase in of age. ASA Class III patients were significantly more likely to be delayed by 11.5 years compared to ASA Class I patients. Efforts should be made to address and overcome the barriers to IH repair identified.

Feasibility of HPV-based cervical cancer screening in rural areas of developing countries with the example of the North Tongu District, Ghana

Cervical cancer gains increasing recognition as a preventable threat to women’s health, as expressed by WHO Director General Dr. Ghebreyesus in his recent call for its elimination. Developing countries carry the global burden and despite existing recommendations for secondary prevention screening programs their implementation remains a barrier. This doctoral thesis aims to evaluate the feasibility of an HPV-based cervical cancer screening approach in the North Tongu District, Ghana.
Methods This work studied (i) the methodological validity of self-sampling specimens from cervical cancer patients for HPV oncoprotein testing before its use in a screening population, (ii) the HPV prevalence among 2002 women, 18-65 years of age, in the general population of the North Tongu Disctrict, Ghana, through a cross-sectional population-based study with self-sampling collection in rural communities, and (iii) the natural history of HPV infection by longitudinal comparison of HPV type-specific persistence and clearance for 104 women over a four years’ time period. Results Using self-sampling cervicovaginal lavage specimens for HPV oncoprotein detection was methodologically feasible with 95% sensitivity for HPV16/18 positive cervical cancer. However self-sampling cervicovaginal scraping specimens did not reveal reliable HPV oncoprotein test results during the cross-sectional assessment. The high-risk HPV prevalence found among women living in the North Tongu District, Ghana was 32.3% and 27.3% among women in the WHO-recommended screening age range of 30-49 years. Sample collection in the rural communities was successful. Infection associated risk factors were (i) increasing age, (ii) increasing number of sexual partners and (iii) marital status, in particular not being married. Over the four years’ time period 6.7% of the women observed had persistent high-risk HPV infection, while 93.3% cleared their initial infection and 21.2% acquired new infections.
Discussion The high-risk HPV prevalence found among the general population and women 30-49 years is high and therefore requires careful planning and good infrastructure to triage high-risk HPV positive women and reduce the number of women needing treatment. Using HPV oncoprotein triage from the same self-collected specimen is not reliable at this point, stratification by sociodemographic factors risks stigmatization and retesting for HPV persistence necessitates a well-functioning recall system and HPV genotyping.
Conclusion The high HPV prevalence found demands substantial governmental support and investment to build well-functioning screening infrastructure that offers necessary triage and treatment options for women high-risk HPV positive with increased risk for cervical cancer. Integrating local infrastructure and capacity is promising but requires regional assessment rather than one-size-fit-all approaches.

Injured and broke: The impacts of the Ghana National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) on service delivery and catastrophic health expenditure among seriously injured children

Ghana implemented a National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in 2003 as a step toward universal health coverage. We aimed to determine the effect of the NHIS on timeliness of care, mortality, and catastrophic health expenditure (CHE) among children with serious injuries at a trauma center in Ghana.

We performed a retrospective cohort study of injured children aged 0.10). Uninsured children were more likely to have a delay in care for financial reasons (17.3 vs 6.4%, p < 0.001) than insured children, and the families of uninsured children paid a median of 1.7 times more out-of-pocket costs than families with insured children (p < 0.001). Eighty-six percent of families of uninsured children experienced CHE compared to 54% of families of insured children (p < 0.001); however, 64% of all families experienced CHE. Insurance was protective against CHE (aOR 0.21, 95%CI 0.08–0.55). Conclusions NHIS did not improve timeliness of care, length of stay or mortality. Although NHIS did provide some financial risk protection for families, it did not eliminate out-of-pocket payments. The families of most seriously injured children experienced CHE, regardless of insurance status. NHIS and similar financial risk pooling schemes could be strengthened to better provide financial risk protection and promote quality of care for injured children.

Self-reported confidence and perceived training needs of surgical interns at a regional hospital in Ghana: a questionnaire survey

Due to disparities in their regional distribution of the surgical specialists, those who have finished “housemanship,” which is the equivalent of an internship, are serving as main surgical care providers in rural areas in Ghana. However, the quantitative volume of postgraduate surgical training experience and the level of self-reported confidence after formal training have not been investigated in detail in sub-Saharan Africa.

The quality-assessment data of the Department of surgery at a regional hospital in Ghana was obtained from the convenience samples of house officers (HOs) who had their surgical rotation before July 2019. A self-reported questionnaire with 5-point Likert-type scale and open-ended responses regarding the 35 topics listed as learning objectives by the Medical and Dental Council of Ghana were retrospectively reviewed to investigate the volume of surgical experience, self-reported confidence, and perceived training needs.

Among 52 respondents, the median self-reported number of patients experienced for each condition was less than 11 cases. More than 40% of HOs reported that they had never experienced cases of liver tumor (n = 21, 40.4%), portal hypertension (n = 23, 44.2%), or cancer chemotherapy/cancer therapy (n = 26, 50.0%). The median self-confidence score was 3.69 (interquartile range, 3.04 ~ 4.08). More than 50% of HOs scored ≤2 points on the self-confidence scale of gastric cancer (n = 28, 53.8%), colorectal cancer (n = 31, 59.6%), liver tumors (n = 32, 61.5%), and cancer chemotherapy/cancer therapy (n = 38, 73.1%). The top 3 reasons for not feeling confident were the limited number of patients (n = 42, 80.8%), resources and infrastructure (n = 21, 40.4%), and amount of supervision (n = 18, 34.6%). Eighteen HOs (34.6%) rated their confidence in their surgical skills as ≤2 points. Of all respondents, 76.9% (n = 40) were satisfied with their surgical rotation and 84.6% (n = 44) perceived the surgical rotation as relevant to their future work. Improved basic surgical skills training (n = 27, 51.9%) and improved supervision (n = 18, 34.6%) were suggested as a means to improve surgical rotation.

Surgical rotation during housemanship (internship) should be improved in terms of cancer treatment, surgical skills, and supervision to improve the quality of training, which is closely related to the quality of surgical care in rural areas.

Choices for operative management of fractures in a developing country.

Aims: Operative management of fractures has changed significantly in the 21st century with the introduction of simple but effective devices and procedures to improve fracture care and healing outcomes. This study describes the commonest fractures treated surgically, type of fractures and operative fixation methods used for patients seeking orthopaedic services in two hospitals in Ghana.

Methods: Review of all patients who have had operative fracture fixation at the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital and St. Joseph Orthopaedic Hospital between January 2016 to December 2018. Operation records of 1,168 were reviewed for their age, gender, fractured bone, type of fracture, operative fixation method and devices used for fixation.

Results: A total of 1,168 fractured patients were treated operatively irrespective of age in the 3 year period reviewed. Males (817)compared to females (351) in a ratio of 2.3:1. The 21 – 40 year age group had the highest number of fractures (50% of femur fractures, 52% of tibial and 56% of forearm fractures) managed operatively. Plate osteosynthesis was found to be the most preferred method of fixation for the major long bones; femur 360(66 %), Humerus 69(78% ), radius and ulna 81(78%).

Conclusion: Fractures of the femur and tibial shafts represent an overwhelming majority of operatively managed long bone fractures. Plating as opposed to the gold standard of intramedullary nailing was the most commonly employed fixation method for femur and tibial fractures, so scarce resources should be channelled towards acquiring the requisite instrumentation and skill set for the fixation of these fractures.

Establishing a Sustainable Training Program for Laparoscopy in Resource-Limited Settings: Experience in Ghana

Healthcare equipment funded by international partners is often not properly utilized in many developing countries due to low levels of awareness and a lack of expertise. A long-term on-site training program for laparoscopic surgery was established at a regional hospital in Ghana upon request of the Ghana Health Service and local surgeons.

The authors report the initial 32-month experience of implementing laparoscopic surgery focusing on the trainees’ response, technical independence, and factors associated with the successful implementation of a “new” surgical practice.

Curricular structure and feedback results of the trainings for doctors and nurses, and characteristics of laparoscopic procedures performed at the Greater Accra Regional Hospital between January 2017 and September 2019 were retrospectively reviewed.

Comprehensive training including two weeks of simulation workshops followed by animal labs were regularly provided for the doctors. Among the 97 trainees, 27.9% had prior exposure in laparoscopic surgery, 95% were satisfied with the program. Eleven nurses attained professional competency over 15 training sessions where none had prior exposure to laparoscopic surgery. Since the first laparoscopic cholecystectomy in February 2017, 82 laparoscopic procedures were performed. The scope of the surgery was expanded from general surgery (n = 46) to gynecology (n = 33), pediatric surgery (n = 2), and urology (n = 1). The volume of local doctors as primary operators increased from 0% (0/17, February to December 2017) to 41.9% (13/31, January to October 2018) and 79.4% (27/34, November 2018 to September 2019), with 72.5% of the cases being assisted by the expatriate surgeon. There were no open conversions, technical complications, or mortalities. Local doctors independently commenced endoscopic surgical procedures including cystoscopies, hysteroscopies, endoscopic neurosurgeries and arthroscopies.

Sensitization and motivation of the surgical workforce through long-term continuous on-site training resulted in the successful implementation of laparoscopic surgery with a high level of technical independence.

Postoperative Pulmonary Complications in Complex Pediatric and Adult Spine Deformity: A Retrospective Review of Consecutive Patients Treated at a Single Site in West Africa

Study Design:
Retrospective review of consecutive series.

This study sought to assess the incidence, risk factors, and outcomes of pulmonary complication following complex spine deformity surgery in a low-resourced setting in West Africa.

Data of 276 complex spine deformity patients aged 3 to 25 years who were treated consecutively was retrospectively reviewed. Patients were categorized into 2 groups during data analysis based on pulmonary complication status: group 1: yes versus group 2: no. Comparative descriptive and inferential analysis were performed to compare the 2 groups.

The incidence of pulmonary complication was 17/276 (6.1%) in group 1. A total of 259 patients had no events (group 2). There were 8 males and 9 females in group 1 versus 100 males and 159 females in group 2. Body mass index was similar in both groups (17.2 vs 18.4 kg/m2, P = .15). Average values (group 1 vs group 2, respectively) were as follows: preoperative sagittal Cobb angle (90.6° vs 88.7°, P = .87.), coronal Cobb angle (95° vs 88.5°, P = .43), preoperative forced vital capacity (45.3% vs 62.0%, P = .02), preoperative FEV1 (forced expiratory volume in 1 second) (41.9% vs 63.1%, P < .001). Estimated blood loss, operating room time, and surgery levels were similar in both groups. Thoracoplasty and spinal osteotomies were performed at similar rates in both groups, except for Smith-Peterson osteotomy. Multivariate logistic regression showed that every unit increase in preoperative FEV1 (%) decreases the odds of pulmonary complication by 9% (OR = 0.91, 95% CI 0.84-0.98, P = .013). Conclusion: The observed 6.1% incidence of pulmonary complications is comparable to reported series. Preoperative FEV1 was an independent predictor of pulmonary complications. The observed case fatality rate following pulmonary complications (17%) highlights the complexity of cases in underserved regions and the need for thorough preoperative evaluation to identify high-risk patients.

Burden of Neonatal Surgical Conditions in Northern Ghana

Background: Congenital anomalies have risen to become the fifth leading cause of under-five mortality globally. The majority of deaths and disability occur in low- and middle-income countries including Ghana. This 3-year retrospective review aimed to define, for the first time, the characteristics and outcomes of neonatal surgical conditions in northern Ghana.

Methods: A retrospective study was conducted to include all admissions to the Tamale Teaching Hospital (TTH) neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) with surgical conditions between January 2014 and January 2017. Data were collected on demographics, diagnosis and outcomes. Descriptive analysis was performed on all data, and logistic regression was used to predict determinants of neonatal mortality. p < 0.05 was deemed significant.

Results: Three hundred and forty-seven neonates were included. Two hundred and sixty-one (75.2%) were aged 7 days or less at presentation, with males (n = 177, 52%) slightly higher than females (n = 165, 48%). The majority were delivered by spontaneous vaginal delivery (n = 247, 88%); 191 (58%) were born in hospital. Congenital anomalies accounted for 302 (87%) of the neonatal surgical cases and 45 (96%) deaths. The most common anomalies were omphalocele (n = 48, 13.8%), imperforate anus (n = 34, 9.8%), intestinal obstruction (n = 29, 8.4%), spina bifida (n = 26, 7.5%) and hydrocephalus (n = 19, 5.5%). The overall mortality rate was 13.5%. Two-thirds of the deaths (n = 30) from congenital anomalies were conditions involving the digestive system with gastroschisis having the highest mortality of 88%. Omphalocele (n = 11, 23.4%), gastroschisis (n = 7, 14.9%) and imperforate anus (n = 6, 12.8%) contributed to the most deaths. On multivariate analysis, low birthweight was significantly associated with mortality (OR 3.59, CI 1.4-9.5, p = 0.009).

Conclusion: Congenital anomalies are a major global health problem associated with high neonatal mortality in Ghana. The highest burden in terms of both caseload and mortality is attributed to congenital anomalies involving the digestive system, which should be targeted to improve outcomes.

Not just numbers: beyond counting caesarean deliveries to understanding their determinants in Ghana using a population based cross-sectional study

The increasing rate of caesarean deliveries (CD) has become a serious concern for public health experts globally. Despite this health concern, research on factors associated CD in many low- and -middle countries like Ghana is sparse. This study, therefore, assessed the prevalence and determinants of CD among child-bearing women aged 15–49  in Ghana.

The study used data from the 2014 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey. The analysis was limited to mothers (n = 2742) aged 15–49 , who had given birth in health facilities 5 years preceding the survey. Association between CD and its determinants was assessed by calculating adjusted odds ratios (AOR) with their respective 95% confidence intervals using a binary logistic regression.

The percentage of mothers who delivered their babies through caesarean section (CS) was 18.5%. Using multivariable logistic regression, the results showed that women aged 45–49 (AOR = 10.5; 95% CI: 3.0–37.4), and women from a household that are headed by a female (AOR = 1.3; 95% CI = 1.1–1.7) had higher odds to deliver through CS. Women from the Upper East (AOR =0.4; 95% CI = 0.2–0.7) and Upper West (AOR = 0.4; 95% CI = 0.2–0.8) regions had lower odds to deliver their children through CS. Women with parity 4 or more (AOR = 0.3; 95% CI = 0.2–0.5) had lower odds of CD compared to those with parity 1. Women with female babies had lower odds (AOR = 0.8; CI = 0.7–0.9) of delivering them through CS compared to those with male children.

The percentage of women delivering babies through the CS in Ghana is high. The high rates of CD noted do not essentially indicate good quality care or services. Hence, health facilities offering this medical protocol need to adopt comprehensive and strict measures to ensure detailed medical justifications by doctors for performing these caesarean surgeries.

Epidemiology and Perioperative Mortality of Exploratory Laparotomy in Rural Ghana

Perioperative mortality rate (POMR) has been identified as an important measure of access to safe surgical and anesthesia care in global surgery. There has been limited study on this measure in rural Ghana. In order to identify areas for future quality improvement efforts, we aimed to assess the epidemiology of exploratory laparotomy and to investigate POMR as a benchmark quality measure.

Surgical records were reviewed at a regional referral hospital in Eastern Region, Ghana to identify cases of exploratory laparotomy from July 2017 through June 2018. Patient demographics, health information, and outcomes data were collected. Logistic regression was used to identify predictors of perioperative mortality.

The study included operations for 286 adult and 60 pediatric patients. Only 60% of patients were covered by National Health Insurance (NHI). The overall POMR was 11.5% (12.6% adults; 6.7% pediatric). Sixty percent of mortalities were referrals from outside hospitals and the mortality rate for referrals was 13.5%. Odds of mortality was 13 times greater with perforated peptic ulcer disease (OR = 13.1, p = 0.025) and 12 times greater with trauma (OR = 11.7, p = 0.042) when compared to the most common operation. Female sex (OR = 0.3, p = 0.016) and NHI (OR = 0.4, p = 0.031) were protective variables. Individuals 60 years and older (OR = 3.3, p = 0.016) had higher mortality.

POMR can be an important outcome and quality indicator for rural populations. Interventions aimed at decreasing emergent hernia repair, preventing perforation of peptic ulcer disease, improving rural infrastructure for response to major trauma, and increasing NHI coverage may improve POMR in rural Ghana.