Considerations for Newborn Screening for Critical Congenital Heart Disease in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

We propose several considerations for implementation of critical congenital heart disease (CCHD) screening for low- and middle-income countries to assess health system readiness for countries that may not have all the downstream capacity needed for treatment of CCHD. The recommendations include: (1) assessment of secondary and tertiary level CHD health services, (2) assessment of birth delivery center processes and staff training needs, (3) data collection on implementation and quality surgical outcomes, (4) budgetary consideration, and (5) consideration of the CCHD screening service as part of the overall patient care continuum.

Improving standard of pediatric surgical care in a low resource setting: the key role of academic partnership

Background: An epidemiological transition is interesting Sub-Saharan Africa increasing the burden of non-communicable diseases most of which are of surgical interest. Local resources are far from meeting needs and, considering that 50% of the population is less than 14 years of age, Pediatric surgical coverage is specially affected. Efforts are made to improve standards of care and to increase the number of Pediatric surgeons through short-term specialist surgical Missions, facilities supported by humanitarian organization, academic Partnership, training abroad of local surgeons. This study is a half term report about three-years Partnership between the University of Chieti- Pescara, Italy and the University of Gezira, Sudan to upgrade standard of care at the Gezira National Centre for Pediatric Surgery (GNCPS) of Wad Medani. Four surgical Teams per year visited GNCPS. The Program was financed by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation.
Methods: The state of local infrastructure, current standard of care, analysis of caseload, surgical activity and results are reported. Methods utilized to assess local needs and to develop Partnership activities are described.
Results: Main surgical task of the visiting Team were advancements in Colorectal procedures, Epispadias/Exstrophy Complex management and Hypospadias surgery (20% of major surgical procedures at the GNCPS). Intensive care facilities and staff to assist more complex cases (i.e. neonates) are still defective. Proctoring, training on the job of junior surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses, collaboration in educational programs, advisorship in hospital management, clinical governance, maintenance of infrastructure together with training opportunities in Italy were included by the Program. Despite on-going efforts, actions have not yet been followed by the expected results. More investments are needed on Healthcare infrastructures to increase health workers motivation and prevent brain drain.
Conclusions: The key role that an Academic Partnership can play, acting through expatriated Teams working in the same constrained contest with the local workforce, must be emphasized. Besides clinical objectives, these types of Global Health Initiatives address improvement in management and clinical governance. The main obstacles to upgrade standard of care and level of surgery met by the Visiting Team are scarce investments on health infrastructure and a weak staff retention policy, reflecting in poor motivation and low performance.

Mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on children’s surgery in Africa

An outbreak of the disease known as COVID-19, which originated in Wuhan in the Hubei province of China, has rapidly spread to all continents of the globe. First detected via local hospital surveillance systems as a ‘pneumonia of unknown aetiology’ in late December 2019, the disease has since been declared a public health emergency of international concern by the WHO and reached pandemic status.

It is uncertain what the eventual toll of the pandemic will be in Africa; however, there has been a suspicion that the looming pandemic may hit harder than it has the rest of the world. Africa has baseline weaknesses in healthcare resource allocation, and her fragile healthcare systems are particularly vulnerable to being overwhelmed by this illness. Available statistics, to date, however, seem to show that the pandemic has been slow to begin. As of 26 May, 115 346 cases and 3471 deaths have been reported across the whole African continent, constituting 2% of all cases in the globe. African nations have had an opportunity to prepare for the coming onslaught, learn from the experience in other countries and choose interventions that are tailor-made for the unique socioeconomic context.

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Incidence and Mortality Trend of Congenital Heart Disease at the Global, Regional, and National Level, 1990-2017

Congenital heart disease (CHD) is the most commonly diagnosed congenital disorder in newborns. The incidence and mortality of CHD vary worldwide. A detailed understanding of the global, regional, and national distribution of CHD is critical for CHD prevention.We collected the incidence and mortality data of CHD from the Global Burden of Disease study 2017 database. Average annual percentage change was applied to quantify the temporal trends of CHD incidence and mortality at the global, regional, and national level, 1990-2017. A sociodemographic index (SDI) was created for each location based on income per capita, educational attainment, and fertility.The incidence of CHD was relatively high in developing countries located in Africa and Asia, while low in most developed countries. Between 1990 and 2017, the CHD incidence rate remained stable at the global level, whereas increased in certain developed countries, such as Germany and France. The age-standardized mortality rate of CHD declined substantially over the last 3 decades, regardless of sex, age, and SDI region. The decline was more prominent in developed countries. We also detected a significant positive correlation between CHD incidence and CHD mortality in both 1990 and 2017, by SDI.The incidence of CHD remained stable over the last 3 decades, suggesting little improvement in CHD prevention strategies and highlighting the importance of etiological studies. The mortality of CHD decreased worldwide, albeit the greatly geographical heterogeneity. Developing countries located in Africa and Asia deserve more attention and priority in the global CHD prevention program.

Morbidity and Mortality of Typhoid Intestinal Perforation Among Children in Sub-Saharan Africa 1995-2019: A Scoping Review

Background: Typhoid fever incidence and complications, including intestinal perforation, have declined significantly in high-income countries, with mortality rates <1%. However, an estimated 10.9 million cases still occur annually, most in low- and middle-income countries. With the availability of a new typhoid conjugate vaccine licensed for children and recommended by the World Health Organization, understanding severe complications, including associated mortality rates, is essential to inform country-level decisions on introduction of this vaccine. This scoping review summarizes over 20 years of the literature on typhoid intestinal perforation in sub-Saharan Africa.

Methods: We searched EMBASE, PubMed, Medline, and Cochrane databases for studies reporting mortality rates due to typhoid intestinal perforation in children, under 18 years old, in sub-Saharan Africa published from January 1995 through June 2019.

Results: Twenty-four papers from six countries were included. Reported mortality rates ranged from 4.6-75%, with 16 of the 24 studies between 11 and 30%. Thirteen papers included postoperative morbidity rates, ranging from 16-100%. The most documented complications included surgical site infections, intra-abdominal abscesses, and enterocutaneous fistulas. High mortality rates can be attributed to late presentation to tertiary centers, sepsis and electrolyte abnormalities requiring preoperative resuscitation, prolonged perforation-to-surgery interval, and lack of access to critical care or an intensive care unit postoperatively.

Conclusions: Current estimates of mortality related to typhoid intestinal perforation among children in sub-Saharan Africa remain unacceptably high. Prevention of typhoid fever is essential to reduce mortality, with the ultimate goal of a comprehensive approach that utilizes vaccination, improvements in water, sanitation, and hygiene, and greater access to surgical care.

Giant Mesenteric Cyst: Successful Management in Low-Resource Setting

Introduction: Mesenteric cysts are rare, generally benign intra-abdominal lesions with a wide range of presentation in terms of size, clinical presentation, etiology, radiological features, and pathological characteristics.

Presentation of case: We reported a case of giant mesenteric cyst in a 16-month-old girl successfully managed in a low-resource setting.

Discussion: This case is particularly important not only due to the rarity of the presented case, but also for the highlighted aspects from a public health point of view. We faced of the problem of a late stage disease and the lack of preoperative diagnosis due to cultural and economic reasons and the weaknesses of healthcare systems, as in the majority of low- and middle-income countries.

Conclusion: Despite all these limitation, this case illustrates that complex, rare diseases can also be managed successfully in a low-resource setting. It is mandatory to strengthen and improve the health system both in terms of equipment both in terms of public health policies in order to offer a better and more effective quality of care to patients also in low-income countries.

Venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation in heart surgery post-operative pediatric patients: A retrospective study at Christus Muguerza Hospital, Monterrey, Mexico

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation is a life support procedure developed to offer cardiorespiratory support when conventional therapies have failed. The purpose of this study is to describe the findings during the first years using venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation in pediatric patients after cardiovascular surgery at Christus Muguerza High Specialty Hospital in Monterrey, Mexico.

This is a retrospective, observational, and descriptive study. The files of congenital heart surgery post-operative pediatric patients, who were treated with venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation from January 2013 to December 2015, were reviewed.

A total of 11 patients were reviewed, of which 7 (63.8%) were neonates and 4 (36.7%) were in pediatric age. The most common diagnoses were transposition of great vessels, pulmonary stenosis, and tetralogy of Fallot. Survival rate was 54.5% and average life span was 6.3 days; the main complications were sepsis (36.3%), acute renal failure (36.3%), and severe cerebral hemorrhage (9.1%). The main causes of death were multi-organ dysfunction syndrome (27.3%) and cerebral hemorrhage (18.2%).

The mortality rates found are very similar to those found in a meta-analysis report published in 2013 and the main complication and causes of death are also very similar to the majority of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation reports for these kinds of patients. Although the results are encouraging, early sepsis detection, prevention of cerebral hemorrhage, and renal function monitoring must be improved.

Burden of Neonatal Surgical Conditions in Northern Ghana

Background: Congenital anomalies have risen to become the fifth leading cause of under-five mortality globally. The majority of deaths and disability occur in low- and middle-income countries including Ghana. This 3-year retrospective review aimed to define, for the first time, the characteristics and outcomes of neonatal surgical conditions in northern Ghana.

Methods: A retrospective study was conducted to include all admissions to the Tamale Teaching Hospital (TTH) neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) with surgical conditions between January 2014 and January 2017. Data were collected on demographics, diagnosis and outcomes. Descriptive analysis was performed on all data, and logistic regression was used to predict determinants of neonatal mortality. p < 0.05 was deemed significant.

Results: Three hundred and forty-seven neonates were included. Two hundred and sixty-one (75.2%) were aged 7 days or less at presentation, with males (n = 177, 52%) slightly higher than females (n = 165, 48%). The majority were delivered by spontaneous vaginal delivery (n = 247, 88%); 191 (58%) were born in hospital. Congenital anomalies accounted for 302 (87%) of the neonatal surgical cases and 45 (96%) deaths. The most common anomalies were omphalocele (n = 48, 13.8%), imperforate anus (n = 34, 9.8%), intestinal obstruction (n = 29, 8.4%), spina bifida (n = 26, 7.5%) and hydrocephalus (n = 19, 5.5%). The overall mortality rate was 13.5%. Two-thirds of the deaths (n = 30) from congenital anomalies were conditions involving the digestive system with gastroschisis having the highest mortality of 88%. Omphalocele (n = 11, 23.4%), gastroschisis (n = 7, 14.9%) and imperforate anus (n = 6, 12.8%) contributed to the most deaths. On multivariate analysis, low birthweight was significantly associated with mortality (OR 3.59, CI 1.4-9.5, p = 0.009).

Conclusion: Congenital anomalies are a major global health problem associated with high neonatal mortality in Ghana. The highest burden in terms of both caseload and mortality is attributed to congenital anomalies involving the digestive system, which should be targeted to improve outcomes.

Tracheoesophageal fistula in the developing world: are we ready for thoracoscopic repair?

Purpose: Tracheoesophageal fistula (TEF) is a bellwether for a country’s ability to care for sick newborns. We aim to review the existing literature from low- and middle-income countries in regard to management of those newborns and the possible approaches to improve their outcomes.

Methods: A review of the existing English literature was conducted with the aim of assessing challenges faced by providers in LMIC in terms of diagnostic, preoperative, operative and post-operative care for TEF patients. We also review the limited literature for performing thoracoscopic repair in the developing world context and suggest methods for introduction of advanced thoracoscopic procedures including techniques for providing anesthesia to these challenging babies.

Results: While outcomes related to technique from LMIC are comparable to the developed world, rates of secondary complications like sepsis and pneumonia are higher. In many areas, repairs are conducted in a staged fashion with minimal utilization of thoracoscopic approach. The paucity of resources creates strain on intraoperative and post-operative management.

Conclusion: Clearly, not all developing world contexts are ready to attempt thoracoscopic repair but we outline suggestions for assessing the existing capabilities and a stepwise gradual implementation of advanced thoracoscopy when appropriate.

Major abdominal wall defects in the low- and middle-income setting: current status and priorities

Major congenital abdominal wall defects (gastroschisis and omphalocele) may account for up to 21% of emergency neonatal interventions in low- and middle-income countries. In many low- and middle-income countries, the reported mortality of these malformations is 30-100%, while in high-income countries, mortality in infants with major abdominal wall reaches less than 5%. This review highlights the challenges faced in the management of newborns with major congenital abdominal wall defects in the resource-limited setting. Current high-income country best practice is assessed and opportunities for appropriate priority setting and collaborations to improve outcomes are discussed.