Surgical site infection after gastrointestinal surgery in children: an international, multicentre, prospective cohort study

Introduction Surgical site infection (SSI) is one of the most common healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). However, there is a lack of data available about SSI in children worldwide, especially from low-income and middle-income countries. This study aimed to estimate the incidence of SSI in children and associations between SSI and morbidity across human development settings.

Methods A multicentre, international, prospective, validated cohort study of children aged under 16 years undergoing clean-contaminated, contaminated or dirty gastrointestinal surgery. Any hospital in the world providing paediatric surgery was eligible to contribute data between January and July 2016. The primary outcome was the incidence of SSI by 30 days. Relationships between explanatory variables and SSI were examined using multilevel logistic regression. Countries were stratified into high development, middle development and low development groups using the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI).

Results Of 1159 children across 181 hospitals in 51 countries, 523 (45·1%) children were from high HDI, 397 (34·2%) from middle HDI and 239 (20·6%) from low HDI countries. The 30-day SSI rate was 6.3% (33/523) in high HDI, 12·8% (51/397) in middle HDI and 24·7% (59/239) in low HDI countries. SSI was associated with higher incidence of 30-day mortality, intervention, organ-space infection and other HAIs, with the highest rates seen in low HDI countries. Median length of stay in patients who had an SSI was longer (7.0 days), compared with 3.0 days in patients who did not have an SSI. Use of laparoscopy was associated with significantly lower SSI rates, even after accounting for HDI.

Conclusion The odds of SSI in children is nearly four times greater in low HDI compared with high HDI countries. Policies to reduce SSI should be prioritised as part of the wider global agenda

The Practice of Paediatric Radiation Oncology in Low- and Middle-income Countries: Outcomes of an International Atomic Energy Agency Study

Childhood cancer survival is suboptimal in most low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Radiotherapy plays a significant role in the standard care of many patients. To assess the current status of paediatric radiotherapy, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) undertook a global survey and a review of practice in eight leading treatment centres in middle-income countries (MICs) under Coordinated Research Project E3.30.31; ‘Paediatric radiation oncology practice in low and middle income countries: a patterns-of-care study by the International Atomic Energy Agency.’

Materials and methods
A survey of paediatric radiotherapy practices was distributed to 189 centres worldwide. Eight leading radiotherapy centres in MICs treating a significant number of children were selected and developed a database of individual patients treated in their centres comprising 46 variables related to radiotherapy technique.

Data were received from 134 radiotherapy centres in 42 countries. The percentage of children treated with curative intent fell sequentially from high-income countries (HICs; 82%) to low-income countries (53%). Increasing deficiencies were identified in diagnostic imaging, radiation staff numbers, radiotherapy technology and supportive care. More than 92.3% of centres in HICs practice multidisciplinary tumour board decision making, whereas only 65.5% of centres in LMICs use this process. Clinical guidelines were used in most centres. Practice in the eight specialist centres in MICs approximated more closely to that in HICs, but only 52% of patients were treated according to national/international protocols whereas institution-based protocols were used in 41%.

Quality levels in paediatric radiotherapy differ among countries but also between centres within countries. In many LMICs, resources are scarce, coordination with paediatric oncology is poor or non-existent and access to supportive care is limited. Multidisciplinary treatment planning enhances care and development may represent an area where external partners can help. Commitment to the use of protocols is evident, but current international guidelines may lack relevance; the development of resources that reflect the capacity and needs of LMICs is required. In some LMICs, there are already leading centres experienced in paediatric radiotherapy where patient care approximates to that in HICs. These centres have the potential to drive improvements in service, training, mentorship and research in their regions and ultimately to improve the care and outcomes for paediatric cancer patients.

Potential impact of midwives in preventing and reducing maternal and neonatal mortality and stillbirths: a Lives Saved Tool modelling study

Strengthening the capacity of midwives to deliver high-quality maternal and newborn health services has been highlighted as a priority by global health organisations. To support low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs) in their decisions about investments in health, we aimed to estimate the potential impact of midwives on reducing maternal and neonatal deaths and stillbirths under several intervention coverage scenarios.

For this modelling study, we used the Lives Saved Tool to estimate the number of deaths that would be averted by 2035, if coverage of health interventions that can be delivered by professional midwives were scaled up in 88 countries that account for the vast majority of the world’s maternal and neonatal deaths and stillbirths. We used four scenarios to assess the effects of increasing the coverage of midwife-delivered interventions by a modest amount (10% every 5 years), a substantial amount (25% every 5 years), and the amount needed to reach universal coverage of these interventions (ie, to 95%); and the effects of coverage attrition (a 2% decrease every 5 years). We grouped countries in three equal-sized groups according to their Human Development Index. Group A included the 30 countries with the lowest HDI, group B included 29 low-to-medium HDI countries, and group C included 29 medium-to-high HDI countries.

We estimated that, relative to current coverage, a substantial increase in coverage of midwife-delivered interventions could avert 41% of maternal deaths, 39% of neonatal deaths, and 26% of stillbirths, equating to 2·2 million deaths averted per year by 2035. Even a modest increase in coverage of midwife-delivered interventions could avert 22% of maternal deaths, 23% of neonatal deaths, and 14% of stillbirths, equating to 1·3 million deaths averted per year by 2035. Relative to current coverage, universal coverage of midwife-delivered interventions would avert 67% of maternal deaths, 64% of neonatal deaths, and 65% of stillbirths, allowing 4·3 million lives to be saved annually by 2035. These deaths averted would be particularly in the group B countries, which currently account for a large proportion of the world’s population and have high mortality rates compared with group C.

Midwives can help to substantially reduce maternal and neonatal mortality and stillbirths in LMICs. However, to realise this potential, midwives need to have skills and competencies in line with recommendations from the International Confederation of Midwives, to be part of a team of sufficient size and skill, and to work in an enabling environment. Our study highlights the potential of midwives but there are many challenges to the achievement of this potential. If increased coverage of midwife-delivered interventions can be achieved, health systems will be better able to provide effective coverage of essential sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, and adolescent health interventions.

New Venture Fund.

Effectiveness of interventions for improving timely diagnosis of breast and cervical cancers in low and middle-income countries: a systematic review protocol

Breast and cervical cancers pose a major public health burden globally, with disproportionately high incidence, morbidity and mortality in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The majority of women diagnosed with cancer in LMICs present with late-stage disease, the treatment of which is often costlier and less effective. While interventions to improve the timely diagnosis of these cancers are increasingly being implemented in LMICs, there is uncertainty about their role and effectiveness. The aim of this review is to systematically synthesise available evidence on the nature and effectiveness of interventions for improving timely diagnosis of breast and cervical cancers in LMICs.

Methods and analysis
A comprehensive search of published and relevant grey literature will be conducted. The following electronic databases will be searched: MEDLINE (via PubMed), Cochrane Library, Scopus, CINAHL, Web of Science and the International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP). Evidence will be synthesised in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA). Two reviewers will independently screen the search outputs, select studies using predefined inclusion criteria and assess each included study for risk of bias. If sufficient data are available and studies are comparable in terms of interventions and outcomes, a meta-analysis will be conducted. Where studies are not comparable and a meta-analysis is not appropriate, a narrative synthesis of findings will be reported.

Ethics and dissemination
As this will be a systematic review of publicly available data, with no primary data collection, it will not require ethical approval. Findings will be disseminated widely through a peer-reviewed publication and forums such as conferences, workshops and community engagement sessions. This review will provide a user-friendly evidence summary for informing further efforts at developing and implementing interventions for addressing delays in breast and cervical cancer diagnosis in LMICs.

From short-term surgical missions towards sustainable partnerships. A survey among members of visiting teams

An estimated five billion people lack access to safe surgical care across the globe. Traditionally, providing short-term surgical missions has been the main strategy for health professionals from high-income countries to support surgical care in low- and middle-income countries. However, traditional missions have come under criticism because evidence of their sustainable value is lacking, along with any robust documentation and application of recommendations by participants of ongoing surgical missions. Using survey data collection and analysis, this study aims to provide a framework on how to improve the use of visiting surgical teams to strengthen surgical services in resource-poor settings.

An online survey was conducted among members of foreign teams to collect data on five specific areas: basic characteristics of the mission, main activities. follow-up and reporting, the local registration process and collaboration with local actors. The survey included 58 respondents from 13 countries, and representing 20 organizations.

During surgical missions, training activities were considered most impactful, and reporting on outcome/s, along with long-term follow-up were strongly recommended. According to almost all participants (94 percent), the focus should be on establishing collaborative practices with local actors, and encourage strategic, long-term changes under their leadership.

Building sustainable partnerships within local healthcare systems is the way forward for foreign surgical parties that aim to improve surgical care in low- and- middle income countries. When foreign help is offered, local stakeholders should be in the lead.

Cost-effectiveness of neonatal surgery for congenital anomalies in low-income and middle-income countries: a systematic review protocol

Congenital anomalies are the fifth leading cause of death in children under 5 years old globally (591 000 deaths reported in 2016). Over 95% of deaths occur in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs). It is estimated that two-thirds of the congenital anomaly health burden could be averted through surgical intervention and that such interventions can be cost-effective. This systematic review aims to evaluate current evidence regarding the cost-effectiveness of neonatal surgery for congenital anomalies in LMICs.

Methods and analysis
A systematic literature review will be conducted in PubMed, MEDLINE, Embase, Cochrane Library, Scielo, Google Scholar, African Journals OnLine and Regional WHO’s African Index Medicus databases for articles on the cost-effectiveness of neonatal surgery for congenital anomalies in LMICs. The following search strings will be used: (1) congenital anomalies; (2) LMICs; and (3) cost-effectiveness of surgical interventions. Articles will be uploaded to Covidence software, duplicates removed and the remaining articles screened by two independent reviewers. Cost information for interventions or procedures will be extracted by country and condition. Outcome measurements by reported unit and cost-effectiveness ratios will be extracted. Methodological quality of each article will be assessed using the Drummond checklist for economic evaluations. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Effective Health Care Program guidance will be followed to assess the grade of the studies.

Ethics and dissemination
No ethical approval is required for conducting the systematic review. There will be no direct collection of data from individuals. The finalised article will be published in a scientific journal for dissemination. The protocol has been registered with PROSPERO (International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews).

Congenital anomalies form a large component of the global health burden that is amenable to surgical intervention. This study will systematically review the current literature on the cost-effectiveness of neonatal surgery for congenital anomalies in LMICs.

Mechanical Ventilation Supply and Options for the COVID-19 Pandemic: Leveraging All Available Resources for a Limited Resource in a Crisis

The novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has exposed critical supply shortages both in the United States and worldwide including those in ICU and hospital bed supply, hospital staff, and mechanical ventilators. Many of those critically ill have required days to weeks of supportive mechanical invasive ventilation (MV) as part of their treatment. Previous estimates set the US availability of mechanical ventilators at approximately 62,000 full-featured ventilators, with 98,000 non-full featured devices (including non-invasive devices). Given the limited availability of this resource both in US and in low- and middle-income countries, we provide a framework to approach the shortage of MV resources. Here we discuss evidence and possibilities to reduce overall MV needs, strategies to maximize the availability of MV devices designed for invasive ventilation, the literature underlying methods to create and fashion new sources of potential ventilation that are available to hospitals and front-line providers, and discuss the staffing needs necessary to support MV efforts. The pandemic has already pushed cities like New York and Boston well beyond previous ICU capacity in its first wave. As hotspots continue to develop around the country and the globe, it is evident that issues may arise ahead regarding the efficient and equitable use of resources. This unique challenge may continue to stretch resources and require care beyond previously set capacities and boundaries. The approaches presented here provide a review of the known evidence and strategies for those at the front-line facing this challenge.

Steerable and Reusable Bipolar Vessel Sealer: Design, Development and Validation

A new radical design approach arose from the need to develop a bipolar electrosurgical instrument that is modular and cleanable, thus reusable and therefore suitable for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Advanced Bipolar Vessel Sealer (BVS) instruments that are currently on the market cannot be cleaned or maintained well and are therefore most often sold as disposables. Especially in LMICs it is a significant financial burden for hospitals. This possibly leads to the re-use of single-use intended instruments which in turn jeopardizes patient safety. Simultaneously, designing a reusable instrument fits well in the transition to a more circular and sustainable society. To perform advanced laparoscopic surgery with cleanable and affordable electrosurgical instruments, a new design approach is needed. A first phase was initiated by the creation of a cable less steering principle called Shaft Actuated Tip Articulation (SATA) mechanism [6]. Unfortunately, by adding electrically conductive wires to a SATA instrument it loses its modularity and thus cleanability, precisely for which the SATA technology offered a solution in the first place. In addition, there are no non-robotically controlled and reusable BVS instruments with two DOFs available on the market. By being steerable, the user of the instrument is able to deliver a higher quality seal as well as to seal more difficult-to-reach blood vessels and tissue. In this thesis project the goal is to redesign a SATA instrument which sustains bipolar vessel sealing and thus designing a BVS that is easy to clean, easily disinfected and sterilized and which is reusable for a vast amount of surgical procedures. Ideas have been gained by analysing the SATA mechanism and studying commonly used BVS devices. A systematic selection procedure based on the design requirements has resulted in a winning concept for the conduction of electricity through the SATA instrument. For the design of the tip, determining factors were elaborated on, including the construction of the open and close mechanism and the force transmission ratio between the required seal force on the blood vessel or tissue and the necessary tensile force in the core of the instrument. The most critical components of the final model have been identified and evaluated by means of FEM simulations and an experiment. The FEM simulations of the tip components show that the design is satisfactory and that a safety factor of ~1.5 has been achieved. This means that these components do not fail due to normal use and they have a long lifespan as well. In the experiment a flexible nitinol guidewire with Teflon coating was tested for wear by pulling the guidewire through an angled SATA hinge. After some necessary adjustments and additions to the design of the BVS, the results were improved but not optimal. The outcome of this project is a good basis for the BVS design where the steerability has been maintained as well as the modularity and cleanability. The reusability depending on the flexible coating around the core needs to be further investigated and improved.

Access to Radiotherapy for Cancer treatment (ARC) Project’: Guidance for low and middle-income countries establishing safe and sustainable radiotherapy services

Efforts to improve access to cancer care, including radiotherapy services in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) is challenging. Many radiotherapy initiatives in LMICs have failed to fully deliver on their promise because of multi-faceted barriers at the systems, organisational and patient levels, leading to significant wastage of scarce resources. Greater guidance on how to assess and build LMICs’ readiness for establishing sustainable radiotherapy services is needed to improve cancer care outcomes in LMICs. 𝗔𝗶𝗺: The ‘𝗔ccess to 𝗥adiotherapy for 𝗖ancer treatment (ARC) Project’ aimed to provide practical guidance to LMICs on establishing safe and sustainable radiotherapy services. 𝗠𝗲𝘁𝗵𝗼𝗱𝘀: The mixed qualitative methods ARC Project involved a: systematic review; and two-part qualitative study. The systematic review synthesised strategies adopted by LMICs to improve access to cancer treatment and palliative care. Semi-structured interviews undertaken with global radiotherapy experts explored perceived facilitators and barriers to establishing sustainable radiotherapy services in LMICs. The mid-point meta-inference of the systematic review and semi-structured interview data generated a draft list of requirements, which was circulated to global experts during the second part-of the qualitative study. The final meta-inference was undertaken following the completion of the three studies. 𝗙𝗶𝗻𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴𝘀: The systematic review identified that comparatively few studies have focused specifically on improving radiotherapy in LMICs, with no research evaluating effectiveness. The semi-structured interviews identified three key facilitators to establishing sustainable radiotherapy services in LMICs, namely: committing to a vision of improving cancer care; making it happen and sustaining a safe service; and leveraging off radiotherapy to strengthen integrated cancer care. The mid-point meta-inference generated 42 potential requirements, which were organised into four readiness domains: commitment (n=13); cooperation (n=7); capacity (n=17); and catalyst (n=5). The participant validation confirmed 37 of the generated requirements as relevant for inclusion in a radiotherapy service development readiness self-assessment guide for use by LMICs. The end-point meta-inference of the ARC Project’s integrated data presented the ‘𝗥𝗘adiness 𝗦𝗘lf-𝗔ssessment (RESEA) Guide’, with 120 questions that may help LMICs at macro and meso level to determine and create action plans to improve their readiness to establish radiotherapy services. 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗰𝗹𝘂𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀: The ARC Project has identified a complex combination of facilitators and barriers that influence the establishment of sustainable radiotherapy services in LMICs. It has developed a RESEA Guide to provide support for LMICs seeking to establish sustainable radiotherapy services. Further work is needed to evaluate the acceptability and feasibility of the RESEA Guide and inform further refinements.

The Global Burden of Rheumatic Heart Disease: Population-Related Differences (It is Not All the Same!)

Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) remains the most common cardiovascular disease in young adults and adolescents in need of heart surgery in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
The mean age of patients is 20-25 years, often much younger. By contrast, the few patients with chronic RHD in developed countries present a mean age of around 55 years. It is absolutely fundamental to differentiate these two types of population. Pathology, lesions and surgical methods are different, and the results should not be compared. It is not all the same!
A certain enthusiasm for mitral repair has recently surged, with several reports showing excellent results in children and young adults, resulting from the renewed interest of cardiac surgeons, also based on new and modified techniques developed in the meantime. While surgery is easily accessible to patients in developed countries, the situation in LMICs is often dramatic, with countries where there is a complete absence of or few surgical facilities absolutely unable to meet gigantic demands. Many foreign surgical teams conduct humanitarian missions in several of these countries. They are just a “drop of water in the ocean” of needs.

In some cases, however, these missions led to the establishment of local teams that now work independently and, in some cases, outperform the foreign teams still visiting.