Academic Output in Global Surgery after the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery: A Scoping Review

The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery (LCoGS) published its seminal report in 2015, carving a niche for global surgery academia. Six years after the LCoGS, a scoping review was conducted to see how the term ‘global surgery’ is characterized by the literature and how it relates to LCoGS and its domains.

PubMed was searched for publications between January 2015 and February 2021 that used the term ‘global surgery’ in the title, abstract, or key words or cited the LCoGS. Variables extracted included LCoGS domains, authorship metrics, geographic scope, and clinical specialty.

The search captured 938 articles that qualified for data extraction. Nearly 80% of first and last authors had high-income country affiliations. Africa was the most frequently investigated region, though many countries within the region were under-represented. The World Journal of Surgery was the most frequent journal, publishing 13.9% of all articles. General surgery, pediatric surgery, and neurosurgery were the most represented specialties. Of the LCoGS domains, healthcare delivery and management were the most studied, while economics and financing were the least studied.

A lack of consensus on the definition of global surgery remains. Additional research is needed in economics and financing, while obstetrics and trauma are under-represented in literature using the term ‘global surgery’. Efforts in academic global surgery must give a voice to those carrying the global surgery agenda forward on the frontlines. Focusing on research capacity-building and encouraging contribution by local partners will lead to a stronger, more cohesive global surgery community.

Machine Learning in Diagnosing Middle Ear Disorders Using Tympanic Membrane Images: A Meta-Analysis

To systematically evaluate the development of Machine Learning (ML) models and compare their diagnostic accuracy for the classification of Middle Ear Disorders (MED) using Tympanic Membrane (TM) images.

PubMed, EMBASE, CINAHL, and CENTRAL were searched up until November 30, 2021. Studies on the development of ML approaches for diagnosing MED using TM images were selected according to the inclusion criteria. PRISMA guidelines were followed with study design, analysis method, and outcomes extracted. Sensitivity, specificity, and area under the curve (AUC) were used to summarize the performance metrics of the meta-analysis. Risk of Bias was assessed using the Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies-2 tool in combination with the Prediction Model Risk of Bias Assessment Tool.

Sixteen studies were included, encompassing 20254 TM images (7025 normal TM and 13229 MED). The sample size ranged from 45 to 6066 per study. The accuracy of the 25 included ML approaches ranged from 76.00% to 98.26%. Eleven studies (68.8%) were rated as having a low risk of bias, with the reference standard as the major domain of high risk of bias (37.5%). Sensitivity and specificity were 93% (95% CI, 90%–95%) and 85% (95% CI, 82%–88%), respectively. The AUC of total TM images was 94% (95% CI, 91%–96%). The greater AUC was found using otoendoscopic images than otoscopic images.

ML approaches perform robustly in distinguishing between normal ears and MED, however, it is proposed that a standardized TM image acquisition and annotation protocol should be developed.

Psychoeducation for psychological issues and birth preparedness in LMICs: A systematic review

Psychological issues usually accompany the pregnancy of first-time mothers and psychoeducational interventions might be effective in addressing these concerns and preparing first-time mothers for childbirth and the postnatal period. This study aimed to identify, analyse and synthesise the components as well as determine the effectiveness of psychoeducational interventions that are used for managing psychological issues and enhancing birth preparedness among primigravid women or couples in LMICs.

A systematic search of 12 databases (APA PsycINFO, Emcare, Embase, MEDLINE(R), Ovid Nursing, British Nursing Index, Health and Medical Collection, ProQuest, CINAHL, Cochrane, Hinari and PubMed) was conducted to identify relevant studies published between 1946 and October 2021. Quality of the included studies was appraised by the JBI critical appraisal tool and a narrative synthesis was conducted to analyse data extracted from included articles. The systematic review protocol is registered with PROSPERO (CRD42021237896).

The initial search yielded 8,658 articles. Sixteen articles including seven randomised controlled trials and nine non-randomised trials met the inclusion criteria and were selected and reviewed for quality. Thirty-nine outcomes were measured in the studies including psychological outcomes, birth preparedness outcomes and other outcomes. The design of the interventions included antenatal education that was delivered through lectures, role plays, trainings, and antenatal counselling. All the psychoeducational interventions had a significant effect (p <. 05; Cohen's d or Hedge’ g = 0.2 to 1.9) on certain psychological outcomes including childbirth attitude, fear of childbirth, depression, fear, and anxiety and birth preparedness outcomes.

Although first-time mothers experience a range of psychological issues during pregnancy, psychoeducational interventions were beneficial in addressing their psychological concerns. It would appear that these interventions are less expensive and could be easily implemented in LMICs. However, rigorous research like RCTs are hereby warranted to standardise the interventions and outcome assessment tools.

The other opioid crisis: the situation in low-resource countries

Numerous articles in this Special Issue describe an opioid crisis where there is too much opioid, especially in Canada, the USA, and some other high-income countries. Nevertheless, for the majority of the world’s population—people living in low-resource countries—the problem is not enough opioid. In most of the world’s countries, patients are living and dying in severe pain because of limited or no availability of opioid medications.

The scale of the crisis
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 80% of the world’s population (5.5 billion out of 7 billion people) have insufficient access to controlled medications to treat moderate-to-severe pain.1 This is despite morphine, fentanyl, and methadone being included in the WHO’s Model List of Essential Medicines.2 All countries are required to submit yearly opioid usage data to the International Narcotics Control Board, and recently collated data show that low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) used only 10% of the world’s ids. In comparison, a handful of high-income countries (Canada, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, and some European countries) consumed over 90%.3 This means that patients in most of the world are unable to access appropriate, effective treatment for the management of acute pain or pain at the end of life, leading to extreme levels of avoidable suffering.

The Lancet Commission on Palliative Care and Pain Relief (LCPCPR) published a report in 2017 detailing the global problem of low access to opioids and describing an “access abyss” for those living in low-resource areas.4 The authors estimated that in 2015 over 60 million people were suffering from symptoms that needed palliative care and pain relief. In low-resource countries, the situation is made worse because of the combination of low availability of medications and increased burden of pain due to undertreatment and late presentation of many conditions such as cancer and HIV/AIDS. This is illustrated by the Figure, showing a world map where the areas of countries are distorted in proportion to their opioid use divided by their burden of painful disease.4 Canada and the USA are vastly enlarged while other parts of the world (such as Africa and parts of Asia) are barely visible.

Adopting Health Economic Research in Radiation Oncology: A Perspective From Low- or Middle-Income Countries

Establishing a new radiation therapy (RT) setup is resource-intensive as it involves substantial capital costs and the recruitment of a skilled workforce. It is essential to incorporate health economic analysis that estimates recurring and nonrecurring expenses on the basis of the national and local needs, infrastructure, and future projections. RT costing exercises can be especially relevant for low- or middle-income countries (LMICs) with more than 70% of the global cancer burden, with access to < 20% of the available resources. This review article summarizes the scope of RT costing exercises in LMICs, the hurdles in conducting them, and possible ways to circumvent them. The purpose of performing costing studies in RT lies in their utility to improve the efficiency of the investment while at the same time helping to address the issues of uniformity and equitable distribution of resources. This will help assess the net benefit from RT in terms of utility and outcome-linked parameters like Quality-Adjusted Life Years. There are numerous barriers to conducting economic evaluations in LMICs, including the lack of national costing values for equipment, data on manpower salary, cost for public and private setups, and indirect costs. The situation is further complicated because of the nonuniform pay structure, lack of an organizational framework, robust real-world data on outcomes, and nonavailability of country-specific reference utility values. Collaborative national efforts are required to collect all elements required to perform health technology assessments. Information from the national and hospital databases can be made available in the public domain to ease access and broader adoption of health economic end points in routine care. Although resource-intensive at the onset, costing studies and health economic assessments are essential for improving the coverage and quality of RT in LMICs.

Expanding Access to Microneurosurgery in Low-Resource Settings: Feasibility of a Low-Cost Exoscope in Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion

Objectives Less than a quarter of the world population has access to microneurosurgical care within a range of 2 hours. We introduce a simplified exoscopic visualization system to achieve optical magnification, illumination, and video recording in low-resource settings.

Materials and Methods We purchased a 48 megapixels industrial microscope camera with a heavy-duty support arm, a wide field c-mount lens, and an LED ring light at a total cost of US$ 125. Sixteen patients with lumbar degenerative disk disease were divided into an exoscope group and a conventional microscope group. In each group we performed four open and four minimally invasive transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion procedures. We further conducted a questionnaire-based assessment of the user experience.

Results The overall user experience was positive. The exoscope achieved similar postoperative improvement with comparable blood loss and operating time as the conventional microscope. It provided a similar image quality, magnification and illumination. Yet, the lack of stereoscopic perception and the cumbersome adjustability of the camera position and angle resulted in a shallow learning curve. Most users strongly agreed that the exoscope would significantly improve surgical teaching. Over 75% reported they would recommend the exoscope to colleagues and all users saw its great potential for low-resource environments.

Conclusion Our low-budget exoscope is technically non-inferior to the conventional binocular microscope and purchasable at a significantly lower price. It may thus help expand access to neurosurgical care and training worldwide.

Strategies to Improve Women’s Leadership Preparation for Early Career Global Health Professionals: Suggestions from Two Working Groups

Background: Despite advances in gender equality, women still experience inequitable gaps in global health leadership, and barriers to women’s advancement as leaders in global health have been well described in the literature. In 2021, the Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health conducted two virtual working groups for emerging women leaders to share challenges and suggest solutions to advance women’s leadership in global health. In this paper, we present emerging themes from the working groups, provide a framework for the results, and discuss strategies for advancing women’s leadership in global health.

Objectives: The objective of this paper is to synthesize and share the themes of the two working group sessions to provide strategies for improving women’s leadership training and opportunities in the field of global health.

Methods: Approximately 182 women in the global health field participated in two virtual working group sessions hosted by the Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health using the Zoom platform. Participants were divided into virtual breakout rooms and discussed pre-assigned topics related to women’s leadership in global health. The participants then returned to share their ideas in a plenary session. Notes from the breakout rooms and transcripts from the plenary session were analyzed through a participatory and iterative thematic analysis approach.

Findings: We found that the working group participants identified two overarching themes that were critical for emerging women leaders to find success in global health leadership. First, the acquisition of individual essential skills is necessary to advance in their careers. Second, the institutional environments should be setup to encourage and enable women to enter and succeed in leadership roles. The participants also shared suggestions for improving women’s leadership opportunities such as including the use of virtual technologies to increase training and networking opportunities, intersectionality in mentorship and sponsorship, combatting impostor syndrome, and the importance of work-life balance.

Conclusions: Investing in women and their leadership potential has the promise to improve health and wealth at the individual, institutional, and community levels. This manuscript offers lessons and proposes solutions for increasing women’s leadership through improving individual level essential skills and fostering environments in which women leaders can emerge and thrive.

Establishing Sustainable Arthroscopy Capacity in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) through High-Income Country/LMIC Partnerships

Disparities exist in treatment modalities, including arthroscopic surgery, for orthopaedic injuries between high-income countries (HICs) and low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Arthroscopy training is a self-identified goal of LMIC surgeons to meet the burden of musculoskeletal injury. The aim of this study was to determine the necessary “key ingredients” for establishing arthroscopy centers in LMICs in order to build capacity and expand training in arthroscopy in lower-resource settings.

This study utilized semi-structured interviews with orthopaedic surgeons from both HICs and LMICs who had prior experience establishing arthroscopy efforts in LMICs. Participants were recruited via referral sampling. Interviews were qualitatively analyzed in duplicate via a coding schema based on repeated themes from preliminary interview review. Subgroup analysis was conducted between HIC and LMIC respondents.

We identified perspectives shared between HIC and LMIC stakeholders and perspectives unique to 1 group. Both groups were motivated by opportunities to improve patients’ lives; the LMIC respondents were also motivated by access to skills and equipment, and the HIC respondents were motivated by teaching opportunities. Key ingredients identified by both groups included an emphasis on teaching and the need for high-cost equipment, such as arthroscopy towers. The LMIC respondents reported single-use materials as a key ingredient, while the HIC respondents reported local champions as crucial. The LMIC respondents cited the scarcity of implants and shaver blades as a barrier to the continuity of arthroscopy efforts.

Incorporation of the identified key ingredients, along with leveraging the motivations of the host and the visiting participant, will allow future international arthroscopy partnerships to better match proposed interventions with the host-identified needs.

Context and Priorities for Health Systems Strengthening for Pain and Disability in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Secondary Qualitative Study and Content Analysis of Health Policies

Musculoskeletal (MSK) health impairments contribute substantially to the pain and disability burden in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), yet health systems strengthening (HSS) responses are nascent. We aimed to explore the contemporary context, framed as challenges and opportunities, for improving population-level prevention and management of MSK health in LMICs using secondary qualitative data from a previous study exploring HSS priorities for MSK health globally; and (2) to contextualize these findings through an analysis of health policies for integrated management of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in select LMICs. Part 1: 12 transcripts of interviews with LMIC-based key informants (KIs) were inductively analysed. Part 2: systematic content analysis of health policies for integrated care of NCDs where KIs were resident (Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Philippines, South Africa). A thematic framework of LMIC-relevant challenges and opportunities was empirically-derived, organized around 5 meta-themes: (1) MSK health is a low priority; (2) social determinants adversely affect MSK health; (3) healthcare system issues de-prioritize MSK health; (4) economic constraints restrict system capacity to direct and mobilize resources to MSK health; (5) build research capacity. Twelve policy documents were included, describing explicit foci on cardiovascular disease (100%), diabetes (100%), respiratory conditions (100%) and cancer (89%); none explicitly focussed on MSK health. Policy strategies were coded into three categories: (1) general principles for people-centred NCD care; (2) service delivery; (3) system strengthening. Four policies described strategies to address MSK health in some way, mostly related to injury care. Priorities and opportunities for HSS for MSK health identified by KIs aligned with broader strategies targeting NCDs identified in the policies. MSK health is not currently prioritized in NCD health policies among selected LMICs. However, opportunities to address the MSK-attributed disability burden exist through integrating MSK-specific HSS initiatives with initiatives targeting NCDs generally and injury and trauma care.

Global economic burden of unmet surgical need for appendicitis

There is a substantial gap in provision of adequate surgical care in many low- and middle-income countries. This study aimed to identify the economic burden of unmet surgical need for the common condition of appendicitis.

Data on the incidence of appendicitis from 170 countries and two different approaches were used to estimate numbers of patients who do not receive surgery: as a fixed proportion of the total unmet surgical need per country (approach 1); and based on country income status (approach 2). Indirect costs with current levels of access and local quality, and those if quality were at the standards of high-income countries, were estimated. A human capital approach was applied, focusing on the economic burden resulting from premature death and absenteeism.

Excess mortality was 4185 per 100 000 cases of appendicitis using approach 1 and 3448 per 100 000 using approach 2. The economic burden of continuing current levels of access and local quality was US $92 492 million using approach 1 and $73 141 million using approach 2. The economic burden of not providing surgical care to the standards of high-income countries was $95 004 million using approach 1 and $75 666 million using approach 2. The largest share of these costs resulted from premature death (97.7 per cent) and lack of access (97.0 per cent) in contrast to lack of quality.

For a comparatively non-complex emergency condition such as appendicitis, increasing access to care should be prioritized. Although improving quality of care should not be neglected, increasing provision of care at current standards could reduce societal costs substantially.