Current Status of Global Neurosurgery in South-East Asia

Evidence of neurosurgery dates to the bronze age with records of skull trephination; it is one of the youngest specialties, evolving rapidly over the last century (1). Although neurosurgery developed rapidly globally, education, training, and service delivery standards are heterogeneous worldwide. In a world with unequal distribution of wealth and natural resources, what can be done to improve the health care service delivery in resource-limited nations? Historical analysis shows that cooperation among species dominantly contributes to the evolution of life in its current forms. Events at any scale have global impacts, and collaboration among the population has been critical in the survival of our species at different challenging timelines in the Earth’s history.

The recent pandemic is a testament to the power and need for global collaboration for improved health care in resource-limited nations? Historical analysis shows that cooperation among species dominantly contributes to the evolution of life in its current forms. Events at any scale have global impacts, and collaboration among the population has been critical in the survival of our species at different challenging timelines in the Earth’s history. “What is Global Neurosurgery?” is beautifully penned, and various authors have shared their ideas regarding global neurosurgery (2,3). The author presented a comprehensive overview of articles published about global neurosurgery. The true meaning is acquiring a real international stature like global organizations (UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO, etc.), aiming to provide similar support services in resource-poor setups. Therefore, do we imply globalizing neurosurgery where uniform training and neurosurgery services are provided worldwide when we talk of global neurosurgery? Like other global initiatives, global neurosurgery has different perspectives, and a clear definition is not yet established. Neurosurgeons-in-training traveling outside their countries for education often face limitations in accessing these opportunities (4). Should alleviation of these restrictions constitute an essential aspect of global neurosurgery in a literal sense?

Survival of Left-to-Right Shunt Repair in Children with Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension at a Tertiary Hospital in a Low-to-Middle-Income Country

Background: In low-to-middle-income countries, repair of the left-to-right shunts congenital heart disease (CHD) are often done with existing pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Long-term outcomes data of this condition in either low-to-middle or high-income countries are limited. We conducted a study to evaluate the outcomes of children with PAH related to left-to-right shunt CHD who underwent surgical or transcatheter repair.

Methods: All cases of PAH related to left-to-right shunt CHD repairs from 2015–2018 were retrospectively reviewed with additional new patients who underwent repair within our study period (2019–2020). Cases with complex congenital heart disease and incomplete hemodynamic echocardiography or catheterization measurements were excluded. Kaplan-Meier curves, log-rank test, Cox regression with Firth’s correction and restricted mean survival time were used for survival analysis.

Results: Of the 118 patients, 103 patients were enrolled and 15 patients were excluded due to complex congenital heart disease and missing hemodynamic measurements prior to repair. Overall, median age at intervention was 44 months, mPAP mean was 43.17 ± 16.05 mmHg and Pulmonary Vascular Resistance index (PVRi) mean was 2.84 ± 2.09 (WU.m2). Nine patients died after repair. The survival rate for patients with PAH-CHD at 1 day, 30 days and 1400 days (4 years) was 96.1%, 92.1%, and 91.0% respectively. Patients with persisting PAH after correction had –476.1 days (95% confidence interval [CI]: –714.4, –237,8) shorter survival over 4 years of follow up compared to patients with reversed PAH. PVRi was found to be the influencing covariate of the difference of restricted mean survival time between these groups.

Conclusion: In low-to-middle income settings, with accurate PAH reversibility assessment prior to intervention, repair of left-to-right shunt CHD with existing PAH in children has a favourable outcome. Inferior survival is found in patients with persistence of PAH. PVRi at baseline predicts between-group survival difference.

Global Surgery indicators and pediatric hydrocephalus: a multicenter cross-country comparative study building the case for health systems strengthening

Purpose: The aim of this study is to compare specific three-institution, cross-country data that are relevant to the Global Surgery indicators and the functioning of health systems.

Methods: We retrospectively reviewed clinical and socioeconomic characteristics of pediatric patients who underwent CSF diversion surgery for hydrocephalus in three different centers: University of Tsukuba Hospital in Ibaraki, Japan (HIC), Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center in Manila, Philippines (LMIC), and the Federal Neurosurgical Center in Novosibirsk, Russia (UMIC). The outcomes of interest were timing of CSF diversion surgery and mortality. Statistical tests included descriptive statistics, Cox proportional hazards model, and logistic regression. Nation-level data were also obtained to provide the relevant socioeconomic contexts in discussing the results.

Results: In total, 159 children were included—13 from Japan, 99 from the Philippines, and 47 from the Russian Federation. The median time to surgery at the specific neurosurgical centers were 6 days in the Philippines and 1 day in both Japan and Russia. For the cohort from the Philippines, non-poor patients were more likely to receive CSF diversion surgery at an earlier time (HR=4.74, 95%CI 2.34–9.61, p<0.001). In the same center, those with infantile or post-hemorrhagic hydrocephalus (HR=3.72, 95%CI 1.70–8.15, p=0.001) were more likely to receive CSF diversion earlier compared to those with congenital hydrocephalus, and those with post-infectious (HR=0.39, 95%CI 0.22–0.70, p=0.002) or myelomeningocele-associated hydrocephalus (HR=0.46, 95%CI 0.22–0.95, p=0.037) were less likely to undergo surgery at an earlier time. For Russia, older patients were more likely to receive or require early CSF diversion (HR=1.07, 95%CI 1.01–1.14, p=0.035). EVD insertion was found to be associated with mortality (cOR 14.45, 95% CI 1.28–162.97, p = 0.031).

Conclusion: In this study, Filipino children underwent late time-interval of CSF diversion surgery and had mortality differences compared to their Japanese and Russian counterparts. These disparities may reflect on the functioning of the respective country’s health systems.

Financial toxicity due to breast cancer treatment in low- and middle-income countries: evidence from Vietnam

This study examined the financial toxicity faced by breast cancer (BC) patients in Vietnam and the factors associated with the risk and degree of that toxicity.

A total of 309 BC patients/survivors completed an online survey (n=209) or a face-to-face interview (n=100) at two tertiary hospitals. Descriptive statistics and χ2 tests were used to identify and analyse the forms and degree of financial toxicity faced by BC patients/survivors. A Cragg hurdle model assessed variation in risk and the degree of financial toxicity due to treatment.

41% of respondents faced financial toxicity due to BC treatment costs. The mean amount of money that exceeded BC patients/survivors’ ability to pay was 153 million Vietnamese Dong (VND) ($6602) and ranged from 2.42 million VND to 1358 million VND ($104–58,413). A diagnosis at stage II or III of BC was associated with 16.0 and 18.0 million VND (~$690–777) more in the degree of financial toxicity compared with patients who were diagnosed at stage 0/I, respectively. Being retired or married or having full (100%) health insurance was associated with a decrease in the degree of financial toxicity.

A significant proportion of Vietnamese BC patients/survivors face serious financial toxicity due to BC treatment costs. There is a need to consider the introduction of measures that would attenuate this hardship and promote uptake of screening for the reduction in financial toxicity as well as the health gains it may achieve through earlier detection of cancer.

Predictors of poor outcome from aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage and an exploratory analysis into the causes of delayed neurosurgical clipping at a major public hospital in the Philippines

The provision of neurosurgical care for patients with aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) is beset with particular challenges in low- to middle-income countries (LMICs) like the Philippines. In this study located in a low-resource setting, we identify the factors that contribute to unfavorable outcomes of dependency and death.
The authors retrospectively reviewed 106 patients who underwent surgery for aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage in a single institution from January 2016 to September 2018. Data were obtained on exposure variables comprising patient demographics, clinical features, perioperative management, and complications and other interventions; while outcomes on discharge were investigated using the modified Rankin scale (mRS). Descriptive statistics and multivariate logistic regression analyses were done. Root cause analysis was done to identify the causes of delay.
The percentage of patients who had unfavorable outcome (mRS ≥ 3) was 29.2%. The timing of surgery—whether early (10 days)—was not found to be significantly associated with dependency or mortality. On multiple logistic regression, the factors associated with unfavorable outcome were: intraoperative rupture (OR 23.98, 95%CI 3.56–161.33, p=0.001), vasospasm (OR 12.47, 95%CI 3.01–51.57, p<0.001), and a high Hunt & Hess grade (OR 5.96, 95%CI 1.47–24.18, p=0.012). Intraoperative rupture and vasospasm were further found to be independent predictors of mortality. Many causes of delay were identified in terms of patient-, provider-, and health system-levels. These constitute as barriers to timely care and also contribute to the gap in quality and efficiency of neurosurgical treatment situated in low-resource settings in LMICs.
The identified predictors of poor outcomes, as well as the causes delays in neurosurgical treatment, pose as significant challenges to the care of socioeconomically-disadvantaged SAH patients. When considering the solutions to these challenges, the broader environment of practice ought to be taken into account.

Concurrent manifestations of Horner’s syndrome and esophageal metastasis of breast cancer: case report of a young woman after a period of non-adherence to treatment: a case report

Esophageal involvement and Horner’s syndrome are rare manifestations of breast cancer distant metastases that can pose a significant challenge in diagnosis and treatment. In addition to the more aggressive behavior of breast cancer diagnosed in young women, non-adherence to treatment is associated with increased risk of distant metastasis.

Case presentation
A 36-year-old Javanese woman presented to our institution with dysphagia, hoarseness, and frequent hiccups. In the 6 weeks prior to the current admission, the patient also reported tingling in the neck and shoulder, anhidrosis in the left hemifacial region, and drooping of the upper left eyelid. She was previously managed as tuberculoid laryngitis. Plain X-rays showed burst fractures of the cervical vertebrae and slight pleural effusion. Laryngoscopy revealed bowing of the vocal cords and liquid residue in the vallecula that was reduced upon chin tuck. Esophageal metastasis was confirmed with endoscopy showing thickening of the wall and positive cytology swab with ductal malignant cells. The patient had a history of breast cancer with a period of loss to follow-up of 4 years.

Physicians should consider potential distant metastasis of breast cancer to the esophagus and sympathetic nervous system of the neck particularly in a high-risk woman with presentation of dysphagia and manifestations of Horner’s syndrome.

Expert commentary on the challenges and opportunities for surgical site infection prevention through implementation of evidence-based guidelines in the Asia–Pacific Region

Surgical site infections (SSIs) are a significant source of morbidity and mortality in the Asia–Pacific region (APAC), adversely impacting patient quality of life, fiscal productivity and placing a major economic burden on the country’s healthcare system. This commentary reports the findings of a two-day meeting that was held in Singapore on July 30–31, 2019, where a series of consensus recommendations were developed by an expert panel composed of infection control, surgical and quality experts from APAC nations in an effort to develop an evidence-based pathway to improving surgical patient outcomes in APAC.

The expert panel conducted a literature review targeting four sentinel areas within the APAC region: national and societal guidelines, implementation strategies, postoperative surveillance and clinical outcomes. The panel formulated a series of key questions regarding APAC-specific challenges and opportunities for SSI prevention.

The expert panel identified several challenges for mitigating SSIs in APAC; (a) constraints on human resources, (b) lack of adequate policies and procedures, (c) lack of a strong safety culture, (d) limitation in funding resources, (e) environmental and geographic challenges, (f) cultural diversity, (g) poor patient awareness and (h) limitation in self-responsibility. Corrective strategies for guideline implementation in APAC were proposed that included: (a) institutional ownership of infection prevention strategies, (b) perform baseline assessments, (c) review evidence-based practices within the local context, (d) develop a plan for guideline implementation, (e) assess outcome and stakeholder feedback, and (f) ensure long-term sustainability.

Reducing the risk of SSIs in APAC region will require: (a) ongoing consultation and collaboration among stakeholders with a high level of clinical staff engagement and (b) a strong institutional and national commitment to alleviate the burden of SSIs by embracing a safety culture and accountability.

The treatment challenges and limitation in high-voltage pediatric electrical burn at rural area: A case report

Although rare, electrical injury in pediatrics is potentially life threatening and has significant and long-term impact in life. It is challenging to manage such cases in rural areas.

Presentation of case
A fully conscious 13-year-old boy was admitted to the emergency room after being electrocuted by high-voltage power cable, with superficial partial thickness burn over right arm, trunk, and left leg (26 % of total body surface area). Tachycardia and non-specific ST depression was found on ECG examination and was diagnosed with high-voltage electrical injury. Treatments were based on ANZBA algorithm with several modifications, i.e., administering lower concentration of oxygen with nasal cannula instead of non-rebreathing mask as well as Ketorolac and Antrain® for analgesic instead of morphine.

Different choices of treatments were given due to limited resources. Despite possible cardiac and renal complication, further tests could not be done. Fortunately, after strict monitoring, no signs of abnormality were found. We used silver sulfadiazine, Sofratulle® and dry sterile gauze as a dressing of choice following immediate surgical debridement. The patient was observed daily through 7 days of hospitalization and followed-up for 1 year, achieving normal physiologic function of the affected area but unsatisfactory esthetic result.

Lack of infrastructure, drugs, and trained personnel are some of the challenges that still exist in most rural areas. Thus, implementation of available standardized guidelines such as ANZBA, and giving similar training to personnel as well as providing feasible equipment followed by strict monitoring for the patient are needed to achieve maximum results.

Respiratory complications after surgery in Vietnam: National estimates of the economic burden

Estimating the cost of postoperative respiratory complications is crucial in developing appropriate strategies to mitigate the global and national economic burden. However, systematic analysis of the economic burden in low- and middle-income countries is lacking.

We used the nationwide database of the Vietnam Social Insurance agency and extracted data from January 2017 to September 2018. The data contain 1 241 893 surgical patients undergoing one of seven types of surgery. Propensity score matching method was used to match cases with and without complications. We used generalized gamma regressions to estimate the direct medical costs; logistic regressions to evaluate the impact of postoperative respiratory complications on re-hospitalization and outpatient visits.

Postoperative respiratory complications increased the odds of re-hospitalization and outpatient visits by 3·49 times (95% CI: 3·35–3·64) and 1·39 times (95% CI: 1·34–1·45) among surgical patients, respectively. The mean incremental cost associated with postoperative respiratory complications occurring within 30 days of the index admission was 1053·3 USD (95% CI: 940·7–1165·8) per procedure, which was equivalent to 41% of the GDP per capita of Vietnam in 2018. We estimated the national annual incremental cost due to respiratory complications occurring within 30 days after surgery was 13·87 million USD. Pneumonia contributed the greatest part of the annual cost burden of postoperative respiratory complications.

The economic burden of postoperative respiratory complications is substantial at both individual and national levels. Postoperative respiratory complications also increase the odds of re-hospitalization and outpatient visits and increase the length of hospital stay among surgical patients.

Pathways to care: a case study of traffic injury in Vietnam

Traffic injuries place a significant burden on mortality, morbidity and health services worldwide. Qualitative factors are important determinants of health but they are often ignored in the study of injury and corresponding development of prehospital Emergency Medical Services (EMS), especially in developing country settings. Here we report our research on sociocultural factors shaping pathways to hospital care for those injured on the roads and streets of Vietnam.

Qualitative fieldwork on pathways to emergency care of traffic injury was carried out from March to August 2016 in four hospitals in Vietnam, two in Ho Chi Minh City and two in Hanoi. Forty-eight traffic injured patients and their families were interviewed at length using a semi-structured topic guide regarding their journey to the hospital, help received, personal beliefs and other matters that they thought important. Transcribed interviews were analysed thematically guided by the three-delay model of emergency care.

Seeking care was the first delay and reflected concerns over money and possessions. The family was central for transporting and caring for the patient but their late arrival prolonged time spent at the scene. Reaching care was the second delay and detours to inappropriate primary care services had postponed the eventual trip to the hospital. Ambulance services were misunderstood and believed to be suboptimal, making taxis the preferred form of transport. Receiving care at the hospital was the third delay and both patients and families distrusted service quality. Request to transfer to other hospitals often created more conflict. Overall, sociocultural beliefs of groups of people were very influential.

Analysis using the three-delay model for road traffic injury in Vietnam has revealed important barriers to emergency care. Hospital care needs to improve to enhance patient experiences and trust. Socioculture affects each of the three delays and needs to inform thinking of future developments of the EMS system, especially for countries with limited resources.