A Systematic Review of the Cost-Effectiveness of Cleft Care in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: What is Needed?

The objective of this paper is to conduct a systematic review that summarizes the cost-effectiveness of cleft lip and/or palate (CL/P) care in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) based on existing literature.

We searched eleven electronic databases for articles from January 1, 2000 to December 29, 2020. This study is registered in PROSPERO (CRD42020148402). Two reviewers independently conducted primary and secondary screening, and data extraction.

All CL/P cost-effectiveness analyses in LMIC settings.

Patients, Participants
In total, 2883 citations were screened. Eleven articles encompassing 1,001,675 patients from 86 LMICs were included.

Main Outcome Measures
We used cost-effectiveness thresholds of 1% to 51% of a country’s gross domestic product per capita (GDP/capita), a conservative threshold recommended for LMICs. Quality appraisal was conducted using the Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) checklist.

Primary CL/P repair was cost-effective at the threshold of 51% of a country’s GDP/capita across all studies. However, only 1 study met at least 70% of the JBI criteria. There is a need for context-specific cost and health outcome data for primary CL/P repair, complications, and existing multidisciplinary management in LMICs.

Existing economic evaluations suggest primary CL/P repair is cost-effective, however context-specific local data will make future cost-effectiveness analyses more relevant to local decision-makers and lead to better-informed resource allocation decisions in LMICs.

Current Management of Retinopathy of Prematurity

Purpose of Review
This review aims to provide an update on the recent major advances in the management of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).

Recent Findings
There have been a number of major advances in our understanding and management of ROP over the last decade: (1) The advent of improved imaging techniques and technological infrastructure has led to the increased use of telemedicine and potential use of artificial intelligence to enhance access to care for children at risk of developing ROP; (2) the International Classification of Retinopathy of Prematurity (ICROP) 3rd edition has provided updates in classification of ROP and response of ROP to treatment; and (3) the treatment paradigm has shifted from laser therapy exclusively to now having the option of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) therapy. This has led to greater interest in trying to better understand the possible adverse events related to systemic and local VEGF suppression.

There is a greater understanding in the diagnosis and treatment of ROP and its response to treatment. The advent of anti-VEGF therapy has provided ROP providers with a treatment modality that may lead to improved visual outcomes without the need for peripheral retinal ablation. However, there remain questions regarding systemic and local adverse events. Laser photocoagulation continues to be an effective primary therapy and may also be needed after or in conjunction with anti-VEGF treatment.

Modern Radiotherapy Technology: Obstacles and Opportunities to Access in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) have a large burden of cancer with differential population needs and outcomes compared to high-income countries. Access to radiotherapy, especially modern technology, is a major challenge. Modern radiotherapy has been demonstrated with better utility in overall cancer outcomes. We deliberate various challenges and opportunities unique to LMICs’ set up for access to modern radiotherapy technology in the light of discussions and deliberations made during the recently concluded annual meeting of Tata Memorial Centre, India. We take examples available from various LMICs in this direction in our manuscript.

GLOBOCAN 2020 Report on Global Cancer Burden: Challenges and Opportunities for Surgical Oncologists

Cancer is emerging as a major public health challenge globally. Recently, IARC (International Association of Research on Cancer) published global cancer burden using GLOBOCAN 2020 estimates for 36 cancers in 185 countries of the world. As per the estimates of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2019, cancer is the first or second leading cause of death in 112 of 183 countries. The major takeaways of the GLOBOCAN 2020 report relevant to the surgical oncology community include the rising global burden of cancer, global disparity in cancer incidence and mortality in different geographic regions, and the impact of the human development index (HDI) on cancer incidence and projected global cancer burden by 2040. In this article, we discuss the implications of the GLOBOCAN report on future global cancer control strategies and the role of surgical oncologists in the fight against cancer.

Global Neurosurgery in the Context of Global Public Health Practice–A Literature Review of Case Studies

Neurosurgical conditions are a substantial contributor to surgical burden worldwide, with low- and middle-income countries carrying a disproportionately large part. Policy initiatives such as the National Surgical, Obstetrics and Anesthesia Plans and Comprehensive Policy Recommendations for the Management of Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus in Low-and-Middle-Income countries have highlighted the need for an intersectoral approach, not just at the hospital level but on a large scale encompassing national public health strategies. This article aims to show through case studies how addressing this surgical burden is not limited to the clinical context but extends to public health strategies as well.

For example, vitamin B12 and folic acid are micronutrients that, if not at adequate levels, can result in debilitating neurosurgical conditions. In Ethiopia, through coalesced efforts between neurosurgeons and policy makers, the government has made strides in implementing food fortification programs at a national level to address the neurosurgical burden. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are another neurosurgical burden that unevenly affects LMICs. Countries such as Colombia and India have shown the importance of legislation and enforcement, coupled with robust data collection and auditing systems; strong academic advocacy of neurosurgeons can drastically reduce TBIs.

Despite the importance of public health efforts in addressing neurosurgical conditions, there is a lack of neurosurgeon involvement in public health and lack of integration of neurosurgical burden in national health planning systems. It is imperative that neurosurgeons advocate for and are included in aspects of public health policy. Neurosurgery does not stop within the bounds of the hospital, and neither should the role of a neurosurgeons

Perioperative outcomes – more than sevoflurane and scalpels

It is well understood that access to safe surgery is a major challenge in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where over five billion people do not have reliable access to surgical care, resulting in an estimated 17 million avoidable deaths per annum.1 Bickler et al. have predicted that up to 90% of children in LMICs will manifest a surgically treatable condition before the age of 15.2 If these conditions are not managed effectively, they result in severe morbidity or mortality. Butler et al. have echoed this sentiment, noting that up to 20% of children in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Nepal, and Uganda needed surgery but that 62% of that cohort had an unmet surgical need.3 Despite paediatric surgical services in South Africa being positioned to offer a wide range of safe paediatric surgical interventions,4 the paucity of surgeons results in limited access to centralised centres and much of the population remains unserved.5

Perioperative provider safety in the pandemic: Development, implementation and evaluation of an adjunct COVID-19 Surgical Patient Checklist

The COVID-19 pandemic has strained surgical systems worldwide and placed healthcare providers at risk in their workplace. To protect surgical care providers caring for patients with COVID-19, in May 2020 we developed a COVID-19 Surgical Patient Checklist (C19 SPC), including online training materials, to accompany the World Health Organization Surgical Safety Checklist. In October 2020, an online survey was conducted via partner and social media networks to understand perioperative clinicians’ intraoperative practice and perceptions of safety while caring for COVID-19 positive patients and gain feedback on the utility of C19 SPC. Descriptive statistics were used to characterise responses by World Bank income classification. Qualitative analysis was performed to describe respondents’ perceptions of C19 SPC and recommended modifications. Respondents included 539 perioperative clinicians from 63 countries. One-third of respondents reported feeling unsafe in their workplace due to COVID-19 with significantly higher proportions in low (39.8%) and lower-middle (33.9%) than higher income countries (15.6%). The most cited concern was the risk of COVID-19 transmission to self, colleagues and family. A large proportion of respondents (65.3%) reported that they had not used C19 SPC, yet 83.8% of these respondents felt it would be useful. Of those who reported that they had used C19 SPC, 62.0% stated feeling safer in the workplace because of its use. Based on survey results, modifications were incorporated into a subsequent version. Our survey findings suggest that perioperative clinicians report feeling unsafe at work during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, adjunct tools such as the C19 SPC can help to improve perceived safety.

Patient Follow-up After Orthopaedic Outreach Trips – Do We Know Whether Patients are Improving?

The burden of traumatic musculoskeletal injuries falls greatest on low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). To help address this burden, organizations host over 6,000 outreach trips annually, 20% of which are orthopaedic. Monitoring post-surgical outcomes is critical to ensuring care quality; however, the implementation of such monitoring is unknown. The purpose of this review is to identify published follow-up practices of short-term orthopaedic surgery outreach trips to LMICs.

We completed a systematic review of Pubmed, Web of Science, EMBASE, and ProQuest following PRISMA guidelines. Follow-up method, rate, duration, and types of outcomes measured along with barriers to follow-up were collected and reported.

The initial search yielded 1,452 articles, 18 of which were eligible. The mean follow-up time was 5.4 months (range: 15 days-7 years). The mean follow-up rate was 65.8% (range: 22%-100%), the weighted rate was 57.5%. Fifteen studies reported follow-up at or after 3 months while eight studies reported follow-up at or after 9 months. Fifteen studies reported follow-up in person, three reported follow-up via phone call or SMS. Outcome reporting varied among mortality, complications, and patient-reported outcomes. The majority (75%) outlined barriers to follow-up, most commonly noting transportation and costs of follow-up to the patient.

There is minimal and heterogeneous public reporting of patient outcomes and follow-up after outreach trips to LMICs, limiting quality assessment and improvement. Future work should address the design and implementation of tools and guidelines to improve follow-up as well as outcome measurement to ensure provision of high-quality care.

Staged Surgical Approach of Neonates with Esophageal Atresia and Tracheoesophageal Fistula from Low and Middle Income Countries


Neonates born in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) with esophageal atresia (EA) and tracheoesophageal fistula (TEF) often do not have access to adequate surgical care. We have partnered with the non-profit organization World Pediatric Project (WPP) to facilitate care for such patients.


This was a retrospective review of the patients (n=9) in this program. Our protocol included placement of a gastrostomy tube by local surgeons before definitive repair at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR). The outcomes included: demographics, length of stay, complications, mortality, and nutritional status.


The median age at the time of admission to CHoR and at the time of surgery were 3.1 weeks [1.1 – 21.1] and 5.9 weeks [3.4 – 22], respectively. All the patients had a successful primary repair of the EA and TEF without postoperative mortality. As a result, every patient is now on regular PO diet by mouth without TPN dependence. Every patient has been seen in follow up in the U.S. and their home country.


We provided successful multidisciplinary care for neonates with EA and TEF from LMICs in partnership with WPP, which has provided essential support to identify and manage these patients.

Mobile-Social Learning for Continuing Professional Development in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Integrative Review

Access to continuing professional development (CPD) for health care workers in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is severely limited. Digital technology serves as a promising platform for supporting CPD for health care workers by providing educational content virtually and enabling virtual peer-to-peer and mentor interaction for enhanced learning. Digital strategies for CPD that foster virtual interaction can increase workforce retention and bolster the health workforce in LMICs.

The objective of this integrative review was to evaluate the evidence on which digital platforms were used to provide CPD to health care workers and clinical students in LMICs, which was complemented with virtual peer-to-peer or mentor interaction. We phrased this intersection of virtual learning and virtual interaction as mobile-social learning.

A comprehensive database and gray literature search was conducted to identify qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods studies, along with empirical evidence, that used digital technology to provide CPD and virtual interaction with peers or mentors. The PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines were followed. Eligible articles were written in English, conducted in an LMIC, and used a mobile device to provide CPD and facilitate virtual peer-to-peer or mentor interaction. Titles, abstracts, and full texts were screened, followed by an assessment of the quality of evidence and an appraisal of the articles. A content analysis was then used to deductively code the data into emerging themes.

A total of 750 articles were identified, and 31 (4.1%) were included in the review. SMS text messaging and mobile instant messaging were the most common methods used to provide continuing education and virtual interaction between peers and mentors (25/31, 81%). Across the included articles, participants had high acceptability for using digital platforms for learning and interaction. Virtual peer interaction and mentorship were found to contribute to positive learning outcomes in most studies (27/31, 87%) through increased knowledge sharing, knowledge gains, improved clinical skills, and improved service delivery. Peer-to-peer and mentor interaction were found to improve social support and reduce feelings of isolation (9/31, 29%). There were several challenges in the implementation and use of digital technology for mobile-social learning, including limited access to resources (eg, internet coverage and stable electricity), flexibility in scheduling to participate in CPD, and sociobehavioral challenges among students.

The summary suggests that mobile-social learning is a useful modality for curriculum dissemination and skill training and that the interface of mobile and social learning serves as a catalyst for improved learning outcomes coupled with increased social capital.