Telesurgery’s potential role in improving surgical access in Africa

An estimated five billion people worldwide lack access to surgical care, while LMICs including African nations require an additional 143 million life-saving surgical procedures each year.African hospitals are under-resourced and understaffed, causing global attention to be focused on improving surgical access in the continent. The African continent saw its first telesurgery application when the United States Army Special Operations Forces in Somalia used augmented reality to stabilize lifethreatening injuries.Various studies have been conducted since the first telesurgery implementation in 2001 to further optimize its application.In context of a relative shortage of healthcare resources and personnel telesurgery can considerably improve quality and access to surgical services in Africa.telesurgery can provide remote African regions with access to knowledge and tools that were previously unavailable, driving innovative research and professional growth of surgeons in the region.At the same time, telesurgery allows less trained surgeons in remote areas with lower social determinants of health, such as access, to achieve better health outcomes. However, lack of stable internet access, expensive equipment costs combined with low expenditure on healthcare limits expansive utilization of telesurgery in Africa. Regional and international policies aimed at overcoming these obstacles can improve access, optimize surgical care and thereby reduce disease burden associated with surgical conditions in Africa.

Design and Rationale of the National Tunisian Registry of Percutaneous Coronary Intervention: Protocol for a Prospective Multicenter Observational Study

Background:
Coronary artery diseases remain the leading cause of death in the world. The management of this condition has improved remarkably in the recent years owing to the development of new technical tools and multicentric registries.

Objective:
The aim of this study is to investigate the in-hospital and 1-year clinical outcomes of patients treated with percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) in Tunisia.

Methods:
We will conduct a prospective multicentric observational study with patients older than 18 years who underwent PCI between January 31, 2020 and June 30, 2020. The primary end point is the occurrence of a major adverse cardiovascular event, defined as cardiovascular death, myocardial infarction, cerebrovascular accident, or target vessel revascularization with either repeat PCI or coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG). The secondary end points are procedural success rate, stent thrombosis, and the rate of redo PCI/CABG for in-stent restenosis.

Results:
In this study, the demographic profile and the general risk profile of Tunisian patients who underwent PCI and their end points will be analyzed. The complexity level of the procedures and the left main occlusion, bifurcation occlusion, and chronic total occlusion PCI will be analyzed, and immediate as well as long-term results will be determined. The National Tunisian Registry of PCI (NATURE-PCI) will be the first national multicentric registry of angioplasty in Africa. For this study, the institutional ethical committee approval was obtained (0223/2020). This trial consists of 97 cardiologists and 2498 patients who have undergone PCI with a 1-year follow-up period. Twenty-eight catheterization laboratories from both public (15 laboratories) and private (13 laboratories) sectors will enroll patients after receiving informed consent. Of the 2498 patients, 1897 (75.9%) are managed in the public sector and 601 (24.1%) are managed in the private sector. The COVID-19 pandemic started in Tunisia in March 2020; 719 patients (31.9%) were included before the COVID-19 pandemic and 1779 (60.1%) during the pandemic. The inclusion of patients has been finished, and we expect to publish the results by the end of 2022.

Conclusions:
This study would add data and provide a valuable opportunity for real-world clinical epidemiology and practice in the field of interventional cardiology in Tunisia with insights into the uptake of PCI in this limited-income region.

Trial Registration:
Clinicaltrials.gov NCT04219761; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04219761

International Registered Report Identifier (IRRID):
RR1-10.2196/24595

Improvements in Child Cancer Diagnostics and Treatment in Africa

In Africa, more than 50% of cases of childhood cancer go undiagnosed. Africa accounts for 146,000 of the projected 397,000 new cases globally per year (including both diagnosed and undiagnosed cases) (Ward et al, 2019a). Of the diagnosed cases, only 11.6% of children in Africa survive (Ward et al, 2019b). Based on the above modeling exercise, we estimate that only about one-third of those who are diagnosed actually receive treatment; no hard data are available. Increasing access to treatment will increase survival, although to reach survival rates comparable to high income countries, investments will also be needed to decrease treatment abandonment and improve quality of treatment (Ward et al, 2019b).We recommend investing to expand treatment of five key cancers that are both treatable and affordable. These five cancers together account
for 40% of the burden of childhood cancer in Africa. Studies of cost per child treated in subSaharan Africa for three of the conditions (Burkitt lymphoma, nephroblastoma and earlystage retinoblastoma) were $1248, $1976 and $2202 USD respectively in various low- and lower-middle income countries in Africa. More conservatively, costs of a comprehensive cancer centre in one African country which achieved a projected 5-year survival rate of 35% for a cohort of children with multiple cancer types, were around $10,000 per child in 2018 USD, or around 6.5 times per capita GNI (see text below for all study references).
Benefit:cost ratios were estimated as 9.1 to 19.3 for the three diseases for which studies were available, and a more conservative 5.2:1 for a comprehensive centre which treats not only the priority diseases, but also provides treatment for other less-treatable conditions and palliative care to children for whom cure is not possible. Ratios would be a little lower (4.6:1) but still very attractive if indirect costs to families were included in treatment costs, and higher if non-profit organizations took the lead in small investments to reduce treatment abandonment rates, as has been done successfully in a number of low- and middleincome country (LMIC) contexts.
Expanding care from the estimated one-third of those diagnosed to all those currently diagnosed would cost $407m using the comprehensive cancer centre model. This amount would double, if 90% coverage of were attained (i.e. if 80% of all undiagnosed children could be diagnosed and linked to treatment). The value of the benefits would however be an estimated 5.2 times the costs, or $2116m. There are other potential unquantifiable benefits, such as helping to show that cancer is indeed curable and helping reduce the stigma associated with cancer in Africa, potentially leading adults with cancer to seek care earlier and improve their survival. In addition, improving capabilities to treat childhood cancers has the potential to strengthen health systems more broadly, by developing radiologic and pathologic services, medicines procurement and supply management, surgical facilities, health human resource training and retention, and supportive care capacities.

Burn Admissions Across Low- and Middle-income Countries: A Repeated Cross-sectional Survey

Burn injuries have decreased markedly in high-income countries while the incidence of burns remains high in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) where more than 90% of burns are thought to occur. However, the cause of burns in LMIC is poorly documented. The aim was to document the causes of severe burns and the changes over time. A cross-sectional survey was completed for 2014 and 2019 in eight burn centers across Africa, Asia, and Latin America: Cairo, Nairobi, Ibadan, Johannesburg, Dhaka, Kathmandu, Sao Paulo, and Guadalajara. The information summarised included demographics of burn patients, location, cause, and outcomes of burns. In total, 15,344 patients were admitted across all centers, 37% of burns were women and 36% of burns were children. Burns occurred mostly in household settings (43–79%). In Dhaka and Kathmandu, occupational burns were also common (32 and 43%, respectively). Hot liquid and flame burns were most common while electric burns were also common in Dhaka and Sao Paulo. The type of flame burns varies by center and year, in Dhaka, 77% resulted from solid fuel in 2014 while 74% of burns resulted from Liquefied Petroleum Gas in 2019. In Nairobi, a large proportion (32%) of burns were intentional self-harm or assault. The average length of stay in hospitals decreased from 2014 to 2019. The percentage of deaths ranged from 5% to 24%. Our data provide important information on the causes of severe burns which can provide guidance in how to approach the development of burn injury prevention programs in LMIC.

Nonphysician Sedation Providers in Africa: What Counts and What Is Being Counted?

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” – WB Cameron, Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking, 1963.

Does your anesthesia providers’ level of training impact your outcomes? This question has been widely evaluated and debated in the perioperative literature. With increasing demand for surgical and procedural services facilitated by anesthesia care globally, an answer will continue to be sought. Van der Merwe et al1 in their article “Postoperative outcomes associated with procedural sedation conducted by physician and non-physician anesthesia providers: findings from the prospective, observational African Surgical Outcomes Study (ASOS)” published in this month’s Anesthesia & Analgesia, have added to this discussion, with a secondary analysis of data from the African Surgical Outcomes Study (ASOS). Although their study provides some interesting insights into the outcomes of procedural sedation across the continent, our opinion is that the question remains largely unanswered.

To date, most of the literature evaluating the association between anesthesia care provider type and outcomes has focused on anesthesia care in highly developed health care systems. Questions have focused on task-shifting, where the responsibility for tasks is shifted from a more highly trained health care provider to health workers with shorter training and fewer qualifications, and task-sharing, where both levels of providers perform the task and may even work closely together. Examples include family doctors in Canada providing unsupervised anesthesia care in community hospitals after adding an additional year of training in anesthesia to their family medicine residency program; certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), practicing independently in many US states; and French anesthesiologists supervising nurse anesthetists with a 1:2 ratio. Ultimately, the hope is that by shifting/sharing tasks, access to care will improve with less-resource input and with similar (or in the case of task-sharing) even safer outcomes.2

Countries with a gross national income per capita of <$12,696 US dollars (USDs) are often (problematically) lumped together as low- and middle-income countries (LMICs)3 regardless of the profound diversity in this categorization, which contains around 85% of the world’s population.4 There is a critical shortage in human resources for health (HRH) globally, particularly in anesthesia. However, HRH are one of the most complex parts of health systems, with huge international variation in terms of numbers of health care workers, their training, their point of entry into training, their scope of practice, interprofessionalism, resilience, burnout, and retention of health care workers within the system.5–7 Developing a deep understanding of how to most effectively and efficiently provide safe anesthesia care is an urgent priority in improving global surgical outcomes; however, nuances in context make generalizations problematic.

Ven der Merwe et al1 aimed to evaluate this question by comparing patient outcomes when procedural sedation was delivered by nonphysician versus physician anesthesia providers. The primary data source, the ASOS, is a landmark study, where investigators collected a large amount of data (11,422 patients) over a relatively short amount of time, with good coverage of a broad geographic area.8 Its largely descriptive statistical analysis has been highly informative of perioperative outcomes in Africa, which appear to be much worse than previously published global data. In contrast, the Van der Merwe et al1 study is a small subset of the primary data (336 patients, ~3% of the full cohort), with a more complex comparative statistical analysis, with the authors concluding that receipt of sedation from a nonphysician provider was significantly associated with increased odds of severe complications. While these results must be interpreted with great caution (as we will outline below), the findings raise important questions about perioperative health care systems in Africa.

How Climate Change May Threaten Progress in Neonatal Health in the African Region

Climate change is likely to have wide-ranging impacts on maternal and neonatal health in Africa. Populations in low-resource settings already experience adverse impacts from weather extremes, a high burden of disease from environmental exposures, and limited access to high-quality clinical care. Climate change is already increasing local temperatures. Neonates are at high risk of heat stress and dehydration due to their unique metabolism, physiology, growth, and developmental characteristics. Infants in low-income settings may have little protection against extreme heat due to housing design and limited access to affordable space cooling. Climate change may increase risks to neonatal health from weather disasters, decreasing food security, and facilitating infectious disease transmission. Effective interventions to reduce risks from the heat include health education on heat risks for mothers, caregivers, and clinicians; nature-based solutions to reduce urban heat islands; space cooling in health facilities; and equitable improvements in housing quality and food systems. Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are essential to reduce the long-term impacts of climate change that will further undermine global health strategies to reduce neonatal mortality.

Postoperative outcomes associated with surgical care for women in Africa: an international risk-adjusted analysis

Background
There is an increasing call for a broader approach to women’s surgical care in low- and middle-income countries, beyond access to caesarean section. While obstetric outcomes in Africa are well described, outcomes following non-obstetric surgical care for women in Africa are relatively unknown. Methods We did a secondary analysis of the African Surgical Outcomes Study (ASOS) focusing on severe postoperative complications (defined as death and severe complications) in females following non-obstetric, non-gynaecological surgical procedures. ASOS was a seven-day, African multi-centre prospective observational cohort study of adult (≥18 years) patients undergoing surgery in 25 African countries. These African outcomes were compared to international outcomes from the International Surgical Outcomes Study (ISOS) in a riskadjusted logistic regression analysis. Findings There were 1498 African participants and 18449 international participants who met the inclusion criteria. The African cohort were younger than the international cohort (47 (17) years versus 57 (17); p= <0·0001) and had a lower preoperative risk profile. Severe complications occurred in 41 (2·8%) of 1471 patients of the African cohort, and 431 (2·3%) of 18449 patients in the ISOS cohort, with in-hospital mortality following severe complications of 20/41 (48·8%) in ASOS and 78/431 (18·1%) in ISOS. The adjusted odds ratio for a woman in Africa developing a severe postoperative complication following elective non-obstetric, non-gynaecological surgery compared to the international incidence was 2·114 (95% CI 1·468 – 3·042, p<0·0001). Interpretation: Women living in Africa have double the odds of severe postoperative complications following elective non-obstetric, non-gynaecological surgery compared to the international incidence.

Evolution of patterns of care for women with cervical cancer in Morocco over a decade

Background
We conducted a Pattern-of-care (POC) study at two premier-most public-funded oncology centers in Morocco to evaluate delays in care continuum and adherence to internationally accepted treatment guidelines of cervical cancer.

Method
Following a systematic sampling method, cervical cancer patients registered at Centre Mohammed VI (Casablanca) and Institut National d’Oncologie (Rabat) during 2 months of every year from 2008 to 2017, were included in this retrospective study. Relevant information was abstracted from the medical records.

Results
A total of 886 patients was included in the analysis; 59.5% were at stage I/II. No appreciable change in stage distribution was observed over time. Median access and treatment delays were 5.0 months and 2.3 months, respectively without any significant temporal change. Concurrent chemotherapy was administered to 57.7% of the patients receiving radiotherapy. Surgery was performed on 81.2 and 34.8% of stage I and II patients, respectively. A very high proportion (85.7%) of operated patients received post-operative radiation therapy. Median interval between surgery and initiation of radiotherapy was 3.1 months. Only 45.3% of the patients treated with external beam radiation received brachytherapy. Radiotherapy was completed within 10 weeks in 77.4% patients. An overall 5-year disease-free survival (DFS) was observed in 57.5% of the patients – ranging from 66.1% for stage I to 31.1% for stage IV. Addition of brachytherapy to radiation significantly improved survival at all stages. The study has the usual limitations of retrospective record-based studies, which is data incompleteness.

Conclusion
Delays in care continuum need to be further reduced. Increased use of chemoradiation and brachytherapy will improve survival further.

Exploring the feasibility of integration of surveillance for intussusception into the routine monitoring of adverse events following immunization by countries of the WHO African Region for Africa

Surveillance for intussusception (IS) post-rotavirus vaccine introduction in World Health Organization Africa Region (WHO/AFRO) has been restricted mainly to the large referral teaching hospitals. The choice of these facilities for surveillance was made to utilize the abundant expertise of specialists in paediatrics and surgery in these hospitals who can diagnose and manage such patients with IS. The surveillance has been well coordinated by the African Intussusception Surveillance Network established in 2012. This network has supported surveillance across the African region and has accumulated a huge database of IS cases in children < 1 year with findings that have demonstrated safety of the monovalent rotavirus vaccine, Rotarix (GlaxoSmithKline). However, safety data on the pentavalent and RotaTeq (Merck Vaccine) is not yet available from the African region. Although, this network has provided much needed data, there is an inherent bias in monitoring and reporting of IS cases in only large tertiary hospitals. This time limited special project does not capture suspected intussusception cases with no access to hospital facilities used for monitoring IS. Additionally, the design requires extensive resources to support collection of high-quality data for monitoring IS, which is unsustainable. For these reasons suitable linkages between IS monitoring and routine Adverse Event Following Immunization (AEFI) should be established for continuity of monitoring of this condition. We propose alignment of the two systems that offers opportunity for high profile recognition and to enhance a sustainable system for diagnosis, treatment and continuous assessment of intussusception occurring in infancy.

Quality of health care services and performance in public hospitals in Africa: A protocol for systematic review

Background: The delivery of high-quality health care services and performance is the main aim of all health care systems globally. This review objective is to determine the quality of health care services and performance in public hospitals in Africa through a systematic review and meta-analysis of existing studies.

Methods: The search will be conducted in pre-determined databases (e.g., PubMed), for eligible studies between 2000 and 2020, to identify studies published in English, which applied the service quality gap (SERVIQUAL) model to determine the quality of health care services and performance in public hospitals in Africa. The search will also include a review of reference lists of included studies for other eligible studies. Eligible studies will include experimental and observational studies. Two authors will independently screen the search output, select studies and extract data, resolve discrepancies by consensus and discussions. Two authors will use Cochrane risk of bias tools for experimental studies, and Hoy for observational studies. The review will also assess study quality and risk of bias using standardized tools. The review aims to provide comprehensive information on the quality of health care services and performance in public hospitals in Africa.

Discussion: Understanding patients’ or clients’ expectations and perceptions on the quality of health care services provided in the health care systems are very crucial in the improvement of the health status of the general population. The SERVIQUAL model is a standardized tool used to assess the quality gap of patients/clients perspectives on health care services in hospitals globally. The findings from this review will provide information on the quality gap of health care provided in public hospitals in SSA. Also, we anticipate that the findings will inform policymakers in health care systems on how to improve and maintain the quality of health care services in public hospitals in different African settings.

Systematic review registration number: PROSPERO CRD 420212264100 dated 25/07/2021