Intestinal Perforations Associated With a High Mortality and Frequent Complications During an Epidemic of Multidrug-resistant Typhoid Fever in Blantyre, Malawi

Typhoid fever remains a major source of morbidity and mortality in low-income settings. Its most feared complication is intestinal perforation. However, due to the paucity of diagnostic facilities in typhoid-endemic settings, including microbiology, histopathology, and radiology, the etiology of intestinal perforation is frequently assumed but rarely confirmed. This poses a challenge for accurately estimating burden of disease.

We recruited a prospective cohort of patients with confirmed intestinal perforation in 2016 and performed enhanced microbiological investigations (blood and tissue culture, plus tissue polymerase chain reaction [PCR] for Salmonella Typhi). In addition, we used a Poisson generalized linear model to estimate excess perforations attributed to the typhoid epidemic, using temporal trends in S. Typhi bloodstream infection and perforated abdominal viscus at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital from 2008–2017.

We recruited 23 patients with intraoperative findings consistent with intestinal perforation. 50% (11/22) of patients recruited were culture or PCR positive for S. Typhi. Case fatality rate from typhoid-associated intestinal perforation was substantial at 18% (2/11). Our statistical model estimates that culture-confirmed cases of typhoid fever lead to an excess of 0.046 perforations per clinical typhoid fever case (95% CI, .03–.06). We therefore estimate that typhoid fever accounts for 43% of all bowel perforation during the period of enhanced surveillance.

The morbidity and mortality associated with typhoid abdominal perforations are high. By placing clinical outcome data from a cohort in the context of longitudinal surgical registers and bacteremia data, we describe a valuable approach to adjusting estimates of the burden of typhoid fever.

Why Do They Leave? Challenges to Retention of Surgical Clinical Officers in District Hospitals in Malawi

Low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are the worst affected by a lack of safe and affordable access to safe surgery. The significant unmet surgical need can be in part attributed to surgical workforce shortages that disproportionately affect rural areas of these countries. To combat this, Malawi has introduced a cadre of non-physician clinicians (NPCs) called clinical officers (COs), trained to the level of a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Surgery. This study explored the barriers and enablers to their retention in rural district hospitals (DHs), as perceived by the first cohort of COs trained to BSc in Surgery level in Malawi.

A longitudinal qualitative research approach was used based on interviews with 16 COs, practicing at DHs, during their BSc training (2015); and again with 15 of them after their graduation (2019). Data from both time points were analysed and compared using a top-down thematic analysis approach.

Of the 16 COs interviewed in 2015, 11 intended to take up a post at a DH following graduation; however, only 6 subsequently did so. The major barriers to remaining in a DH post as perceived by these COs were lack of promotion, a more attractive salary elsewhere; and unclear, stagnant career progression within surgery. For those who remained working in DH posts, the main enablers are a willingness to accept a low salary, to generate greater opportunities to engage in additional earning opportunities; the hope of promotional opportunities within the government system; and greater responsibility and recognition of their surgical knowledge and skills as a BSc-holder at the district level.

The sustainability of surgically trained NPCs in Malawi is not assured and further work is required to develop and implement successful retention strategies, which will require a multi-sector approach. This paper provides insights into barriers and enablers to retention of this newly-introduced cadre and has important lessons for policy-makers in Malawi and other countries employing NPCs to deliver essential surgery.

Oxygen availability in sub-Saharan African countries: a call for data to inform service delivery

Oxygen is central to the management of patients admitted to hospital with severe COVID-19. Furthermore, the availability of oxygen therapy is just as important for the management of other patients who are acutely ill. However, despite recognition from most health-care providers that oxygen is a fundamental component of a health-care system, it has not been a focus of health-care delivery in sub-Saharan African countries, as shown by the lack of data collected on oxygen availability.

Delivery Mode for Prolonged, Obstructed Labour Resulting in Obstetric Fistula: A Retrospective Review of 4396 Women in East and Central Africa

Objective: To evaluate the mode of delivery and stillbirth rates over time among women with obstetric fistula.

Design: Retrospective record review.

Setting: Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Zambia and Ethiopia.

Population: A total of 4396 women presenting with obstetric fistulas for repair who delivered previously in facilities between 1990 and 2014.

Methods: Retrospective review of trends and associations between mode of delivery and stillbirth, focusing on caesarean section (CS), assisted vaginal deliveries and spontaneous vaginal deliveries.

Main outcome measures: Mode of delivery, stillbirth.

Results: Out of 4396 women with fistula, 3695 (84.1%) delivered a stillborn baby. Among mothers with fistula giving birth to a stillborn baby, the CS rate (overall 54.8%, 2027/3695) rose from 45% (162/361) in 1990-94 to 64% (331/514) in 2010-14. This increase occurred at the expense of assisted vaginal delivery (overall 18.3%, 676/3695), which declined from 32% (115/361) to 6% (31/514).

Conclusions: In Eastern and Central Africa, CS is increasingly performed on women with obstructed labour whose babies have already died in utero. Contrary to international recommendations, alternatives such as vacuum extraction, forceps and destructive delivery are decreasingly used. Unless uterine rupture is suspected, CS should be avoided in obstructed labour with intrauterine fetal death to avoid complications related to CS scars in subsequent pregnancies. Increasingly, women with obstetric fistula add a history of unnecessary CS to their already grim experiences of prolonged, obstructed labour and stillbirth.

Significant Improvement in Quality of Life Following Surgery for Hydrocoele Caused by Lymphatic Filariasis in Malawi: A Prospective Cohort Study

Lymphatic filariasis (LF) is a mosquito-borne parasitic infection that causes significant disabling and disfiguring clinical manifestations. Hydrocoele (scrotal swelling) is the most common clinical condition, which affects an estimated 25 million men globally. The recommended strategy is surgical intervention, yet little is known about the impact of hydrocoele on men’s lives, and how it may change if they have access to surgery.
Methodology/principal findings
We prospectively recruited and followed-up men who underwent surgery for hydrocoele at six hospitals in an LF endemic area of Malawi in December 2015. Men were interviewed at hospitals pre-surgery and followed-up at 3-months and 6-months post-surgery. Data on demographic characteristics, clinical condition, barriers to surgery, post-surgery symptoms/complications and quality of life indicators were collected and analysed pre- and post-surgery, by age group and stage of disease (mild/moderate vs. severe), using chi-square tests and student’s t test (paired). 201 men were interviewed pre-surgery, 152 at 3-months and 137 at 6-months post-surgery. Most men had unilateral hydrocoeles (65.2%), mild/moderate stages (57.7%) with an average duration of 11.4 years. The most reported cause of hydrocoele was it being sexually transmitted (22.4%), and the main barrier to surgery was the cost (36.3%). Pre-surgery, a significant difference in the scrotum side affected was found by age group (X2 = 5.978, p = 0.05), and men with severe stage hydrocoele reported more problems with their quality of life than those with mild/moderate stage (t = 2.793; p = 0.0006). Post-surgery, around half of the men reported some pain/discomfort (55.9%), swelling (8.6%), bleeding (3.3%) and infection (5.9%), most of which had resolved at 3-months when the most significant improvements in their quality of life were found (t = 21.3902; p = 0.000). Post-surgery at 6 months all men reported no physical, social, psychological problems and took no time off work.
Surgery had a significant positive impact on many aspects of a patient’s life, and the expansion of this treatment to all those affected in LF endemic areas would greatly improve the quality of men’s and their families’ lives, and greatly contribute to the global goal of providing universal health care.

Economic benefits and costs of surgery for filarial hydrocele in Malawi

Lymphatic filariasis (LF) is endemic in 72 countries of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas. An estimated 25 million men live with the disabling effects of filarial hydrocele. Hydrocele can be corrected with surgery with few complications. For most men, hydrocelectomy reduces or corrects filarial hydrocele and permits them to resume regular activities of daily living and gainful employment.

Methodology and principal findings
This study measures the economic loss due to filarial hydrocele and the benefits of hydrocelectomy and is based on pre- and post-operative surveys of patients in southern Malawi. We find the average number of days of work lost due to filarial hydrocele and daily earnings for men in rural Malawi. We calculate average annual lost earnings and find the present discounted value for all years from the time of surgery to the end of working life. We estimate the total costs of surgery. We compare the benefit of the work capacity restored to the costs of surgery to determine the benefit-cost ratio. For men younger than 65 years old, the average annual earnings loss attributed to hydrocele is US$126. The average discounted present value of lifetime earnings loss for those men is US$1684. The average budgetary cost of the hydrocelectomy is US$68. The ratio of the benefit of surgery to its costs is US$1684/US$68 or 24.8. Sensitivity analysis demonstrates that the results are robust to variations in cost of surgery and length of working life.

The lifetime benefits of hydrocelectomy–to the man, his family, and his community–far exceed the costs of repairing the hydrocele. Scaling up subsidies to hydrocelectomy campaigns should be a priority for governments and international aid organizations to prevent and alleviate disability and lost earnings that aggravate poverty among the many millions of men with filarial hydrocele.

The Burden of Urological Disease in Zomba, Malawi: A Needs Assessment in a sub-Saharan Tertiary Care Center

Introduction: A large part of the developing world continues to lack access to surgical care. Urology remains one of the least represented surgical subspecialties in global health. To begin understanding the burden of urological illness in sub-Saharan Africa, we sought to characterize all patients presenting to a tertiary care hospital in Malawi with a urological diagnosis or related complaint in the past year.

Methods: Retrospective review of the surgical clinic and surgical theater record books at Zomba Central Hospital (ZCH) was performed over a one-year time span. Patients presenting with urological diagnoses or undergoing a urological procedure under local or general anesthetic in the operating theater were identified and entered into a database.

Results: We reviewed 440 clinical patients. The most common clinical presentations were for urinary retention (34.7%) and lower urinary tract symptoms (15.5%). A total of 182 surgical cases were reviewed. The most common diagnoses for surgical patients were urethral stricture disease (22%), bladder masses (17%), and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) symptoms (14.8%). Urethral stricture-related procedures, including direct visual internal urethrotomy and urethral dilatation, were the most common (14.2% and 7.7%, respectively). BPH-related procedures, including simple prostatectomy and transurethral resection of the prostate were the second most common (6.7% and 8.2%, respectively).

Conclusions: Urethral stricture disease, BPH, and urinary retention represent the clinical diagnoses with the highest burden of visits. Despite these numbers, few definitive procedures are performed annually. Further focus on urological training in sub-Saharan Africa should focus on these conditions and their surgical management.

Availability, procurement, training, usage, maintenance and complications of electrosurgical units and laparoscopic equipment in 12 African countries

Background: Strategies are needed to increase the availability of surgical equipment in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This study was undertaken to explore the current availability, procurement, training, usage, maintenance and complications encountered during use of electrosurgical units (ESUs) and laparoscopic equipment.

Methods: A survey was conducted among surgeons attending the annual meeting of the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA) in December 2017 and the annual meeting of the Surgical Society of Kenya (SSK) in March 2018. Biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs) were surveyed and maintenance records collected in Kenya between February and March 2018.

Results: Among 80 participants, there were 59 surgeons from 12 African countries and 21 BMETs from Kenya. Thirty-six maintenance records were collected. ESUs were available for all COSECSA and SSK surgeons, but only 49 per cent (29 of 59) had access to working laparoscopic equipment. Reuse of disposable ESU accessories and difficulties obtaining carbon dioxide were identified. More than three-quarters of surgeons (79 per cent) indicated that maintenance of ESUs was available, but only 59 per cent (16 of 27) confirmed maintenance of laparoscopic equipment at their centre.

Conclusion: Despite the availability of surgical equipment, significant gaps in access to maintenance were apparent in these LMICs, limiting implementation of open and laparoscopic surgery.

Rosai‐Dorfman disease in Malawi

Rosai‐Dorfman Disease (RDD) is a rare lymphoproliferative disease with limited cases reported in sub‐Saharan Africa, potentially due to a lack of pathological services throughout the region. RDD diagnosis can be difficult, especially in resource‐limited setting, as symptoms can be nearly identical to more common causes of lymphadenopathy.

Complications after intramedullary nailing of femoral fractures in a low-income country.

Some surgeons believe that internal fixation of fractures carries too high a risk of infection in low-income countries (LICs) to merit its use there. However, there have been too few studies from LICs with sufficient follow-up to support this belief. We first wanted to determine whether complete follow-up could be achieved in an LIC, and secondly, we wanted to find the true microbial infection rate at our hospital and to examine the influence of HIV infection and lack of follow-up on outcomes.137 patients with 141 femoral fractures that were treated with intramedullary (IM) nailing were included. We compared outcomes in patients who returned for scheduled follow-up and patients who did not return but who could be contacted by phone or visited in their home village.79 patients returned for follow-up as scheduled; 29 of the remaining patients were reached by phone or outreach visits, giving a total follow-up rate of 79%. 7 patients (5%) had a deep postoperative infection. All of them returned for scheduled follow-up. There were no infections in patients who did not return for follow-up, as compared to 8 of 83 nails in the group that did return as scheduled (p = 0.1). 2 deaths occurred in HIV-positive patients (2/23), while no HIV-negative patients (0/105) died less than 30 days after surgery (p = 0.03).We found an acceptable infection rate. The risk of infection should not be used as an argument against IM nailing of femoral fractures in LICs. Many patients in Malawi did not return for follow-up because they had no complaints concerning the fracture. There was an increased postoperative mortality rate in HIV-positive patients.