Cervical Spine Trauma in East Africa: Presentation, Treatment, and Mortality

Background Cervical spine trauma (CST) leads to devastating neurologic injuries. In a cohort of CST patients from a major East Africa referral center, we sought to (a) describe presentation and operative treatment patterns, (b) report predictors of neurologic improvement, and (c) assess predictors of mortality.

Methods A retrospective, cohort study of CST patients presenting to a tertiary hospital in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, was performed. Demographic, injury, and operative data were collected. Neurologic exam on admission/discharge and in-hospital mortality were recorded. Univariate/multivariate logistic regression assessed predictors of operative treatment, neurologic improvement, and mortality.

Results Of 101 patients with CST, 25 (24.8%) were treated operatively on a median postadmission day 16.0 (7.0–25.0). Twenty-six patients (25.7%) died, with 3 (12.0%) in the operative cohort and 23 (30.3%) in the nonoperative cohort. The most common fracture pattern was bilateral facet dislocation (26.7%). Posterior cervical laminectomy and fusion and anterior cervical corpectomy were the 2 most common procedures. Undergoing surgery was associated with an injury at the C4–C7 region versus occiput–C3 region (odds ratio [OR] 6.36, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.71–32.28, P = .011) and an incomplete injury (OR 3.64; 95% CI 1.19–12.25; P = .029). Twelve patients (15.8%) improved neurologically, out of the 76 total patients with a recorded discharge exam. Having a complete injury was associated with increased odds of mortality (OR 11.75, 95% CI 3.29–54.72, P < .001), and longer time from injury to admission was associated with decreased odds of mortality (OR 0.66, 95% CI 0.48–0.85, P = .006). Conclusions Those most likely to undergo surgery had C4–C7 injuries and incomplete spinal cord injuries. The odds of mortality increased with complete spinal cord injuries and shorter time from injury to admission, probably due to more severely injured patients dying early within 24–48 hours of injury. Thus, patients living long enough to present to the hospital may represent a self-selecting population of more stable patients. These results underscore the severity and uniqueness of CST in a less-resourced setting.

Protocol for a prospective cohort study of open tibia fractures in Malawi with a nested implementation of open fracture guidelines

Background: Road traffic injury (RTI) is the largest cause of death amongst 15–39-year-old people worldwide, and the burden of injuries such as open tibia fractures are rapidly increasing in Malawi. This study aims to investigate disability and economic outcomes of people with open tibia fractures in Malawi and improve these with locally delivered implementation of open fracture guidelines.
Methods: This is a prospective cohort study describing function, quality of life and economic burden of open tibia fractures in Malawi. In total, 160 participants will be recruited across six centres and will be followed-up with face-to-face interviews at six weeks, three months, six months and one year following injury. The primary outcome will be function at one year measured by the short musculoskeletal functional assessment (SMFA) score. Secondary outcomes will include quality of life measured by EuroQol EQ-5D-3L, catastrophic loss of income and implementation outcomes (acceptability, adoption, appropriateness, costs, feasibility, fidelity, penetration, and sustainability) at one year. A nested pilot pre-post implementation study of an interventional bundle for all open fractures will be developed based on other implementation studies from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Regression analysis will be used to model and investigate associations between SMFA score and fracture severity, infection and the pre- and post-training course period.
Outcome: This prospective cohort study will report patient reported outcomes from open tibia fractures in low-resource settings. Subsequent detailed evaluation of both the clinical and implementation components of the study will promote sustainability of improved open fractures management in the study sites and further scale-up of open fracture management guidelines.
Ethics: Ethics approval has been obtained from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and College of Medicine Research and Ethics committee.

Functional assessment of long bone fracture healing in Samburu County Referral Hospital (Kenya): the squat and smile challenge

The burden of musculoskeletal trauma is increasing in low- and middle-income countries. Due to the low clinical follow-up rates in these regions, the Squat-and-Smile test (S&S) has previously been proposed as a proxy to assess bone healing (BH) capacity after surgery involving bone fractures. This study deals with various aspects of using S&S and bone radiography examination to obtain information about an individual’s ability to recover after a trauma. In summary, we performed the S&S test to assess the possibility of recovering biomechanical function in lower limbs in a remote area of Kenya (Samburu County).

Eighty-nine patients (17.9% F; 31.7 ± 18.9 yrs) who underwent intramedullary nail treatment for femur or tibia fractures were enrolled in this study. Both S&S [evaluated by a goal attainment scale (GAS)] and x-ray (evaluated by REBORNE, Bone Healing Score) were performed at 6 and 24 weeks, postoperatively. An acceptable margin for satisfactory S&S GAS scores was determined by assessing its validity, reliability, and sensitivity.

S&S GAS scores increased over time: 80.2% of patients performed a satisfactory S&S at the 24-weeks follow-up with a complete BH. A high correlation between S&S GAS and REBORNE at the 6- and 24- weeks’ timepoint was found. Facial expression correlated partially with BH. The S&S proved to be accurate at correctly depicting the BH process (75% area fell under the Receiver Operator Curve).

The S&S provides a possible substitution for bone x-ray during BH assessment. The potential to remotely follow up the BH is certainly appealing in low- and middle-income countries, but also in high-income countries; as was recently observed with the Covid-19 pandemic when access to a hospital is not conceivable.

Road Traffic Injuries in Malawi with special focus on the role of alcohol

Driving under the influence of alcohol is one of the principal causes of road traffic crashes (RTCs) [1]. The use of alcohol is also a risk factor for other road users, such as pedestrians and bicyclists. The association of alcohol in injurious and fatal RTCs has been well documented in most high-income countries, but data for low- and middle-income countries is scarce, particularly for African countries [2]. The study was a collaborative effort between Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH), the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) and Oslo University Hospital (OUH), with the financial support of UK Aid through the Global Road Safety Facility (GRSF) hosted by the World Bank, the International Council on Alcohol Drugs and Traffic Safety (ICADTS) and the Norwegian Council for Road Safety (Trygg Trafikk). The objective of the study was to generate new knowledge about road traffic injuries in Malawi and the extent of traffic accidents related to alcohol use, to increase capacity to conduct alcohol testing, and develop a database for the findings, which in turn will form the basis for future policymaking to reduce traffic accidents.
The objectives were achieved through collecting data on patients who sought treatment after road traffic crashes and admitted to the Emergency Department at KCH in Lilongwe, Malawi. A questionnaire was developed for data collection in cooperation between the project groups in Norway and Malawi. The data included basic information about the patients, alcohol use before the injury, and information about accident circumstances, including types of road users and vehicles involved. Participation was voluntary and anonymous. All weekdays, weekends and nights were covered. Alcohol was measured using a breathalyzer or saliva test for those who were not able to blow. Knowledge and training of local KCH employees to perform alcohol testing and record data were an important aspect of this study.
The project was approved by the National Health Science Research Committee (NHSRC) in Malawi. The Regional Committee for Medical and Health Research Ethics in Norway was consulted, and their conclusion was that no formal application was needed, with reference to the Norwegian Health Research Act Section, §2 and 4a. A Data Protection Impact Assessment was performed as required by NIPH. There were 1251 patients in the study, representing nearly 95 per cent of those who were asked to participate. The results show a rather high prevalence of alcohol use among several injured road user groups (totally about 25 percent), particularly among those injured during weekend nights and evenings, but also during weekday evenings and nights. It was estimated that about 15 per cent of injured motor vehicle drivers and riders had BACs above the legal limit of 0.8 grams/L at the time of the crash. The findings also show that it is important to focus on bus/minibus/lorry drivers who often carry passengers, where about one out of five tested positive for alcohol. It is worth noting that pedestrians had the highest prevalence of alcohol use before being injured. They constitute a vulnerable group; they often walk in the dark with no road lighting, no pavements, walkways or safe places to cross
the road. Combined with alcohol use their injury risk is even higher. The collected data can contribute to future road traffic safety procedures and measures. The long-term goal is to contribute to sustainable development goal 3, target 3.6, to reduce by half the number of global RTC deaths and injuries. Road Traffic Inuries in Malawi • Norwegian Institute of Public Health This study shows the importance of collecting adequate and relevant data for health authorities particularly in low- and middle-income countries in battling the challenge of alcohol-related road traffic crashes, deaths and injuries. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a
number of recommendations were presented to Malawian authorities at a virtual seminar held in autumn 2020.

Role of General Practitioners in transforming surgical care in rural Nepal – A descriptive study from eastern Nepal.

Introduction: Nepal is a low-to-middle-income country (LMIC) with a predominantly rural population. Almost 10-20% of patients presenting to hospital require surgical care. The availability of skilled human resources in managing surgical care in rural areas of Nepal has to expand to meet this need. The objective of this study is to describe and demonstrate how General Practitioners (GPs) can be upskilled to provide surgical care in rural district hospitals in Nepal.

Method: It is a retrospective review of all surgical procedures performed by GPs from 1st February 2016 to 31st January 2021 at Charikot hospital. Data was collected from a prospectively maintained Electronic Health Record (EHR) system (Bahmini). Details of data collected included name of the procedure and its respective specialty. GP Task shifting and targeted surgical training programs for common orthopedic procedures and pediatric herniotomy were described in detail.

Result: A wide range of surgical procedures were performed by GPs over 5 years. This included interventions for obstetric emergencies, trauma and orthopedics, gynecological issues, general surgery of adult and childhood. A total of 2037 surgeries were performed by GPs including: Cesarean section 25%, 19.7% were orthopedics surgeries followed by 13.5% of mesh repair for abdominal hernia, 9.3% eversion of sac for Hydrocele, 8.7% appendectomy, 5.2% hysterectomy, 3% of pediatric herniotomy and others.

Conclusion: GPs can be further trained to perform important common surgical procedures to improve access to surgical care for rural communities.

Epidemiology of fractures and their treatment in Malawi: Results of a multicentre prospective registry study to guide orthopaedic care planning

Injuries cause 30% more deaths than HIV, TB and malaria combined, and a prospective fracture care registry was established to investigate the fracture burden and treatment in Malawi to inform evidence-based improvements.

To use the analysis of prospectively-collected fracture data to develop evidence-based strategies to improve fracture care in Malawi and other similar settings.

Multicentre prospective registry study.

Two large referral centres and two district hospitals in Malawi.

All patients with a fracture (confirmed by radiographs)—including patients with multiple fractures—were eligible to be included in the registry.

All fractures that presented to two urban central and two rural district hospitals in Malawi over a 3.5-year period (September 2016 to March 2020).

Main outcome(s) and measure(s)
Demographics, characteristics of injuries, and treatment outcomes were collected on all eligible participants.

Between September 2016 and March 2020, 23,734 patients were enrolled with a median age of 15 years (interquartile range: 10–35 years); 68.7% were male. The most common injuries were radius/ulna fractures (n = 8,682, 36.8%), tibia/fibula fractures (n = 4,036, 17.0%), humerus fractures (n = 3,527, 14.9%) and femoral fractures (n = 2,355, 9.9%). The majority of fractures (n = 21,729, 91.6%) were treated by orthopaedic clinical officers; 88% (20,885/2,849) of fractures were treated non-operatively, and 62.7% were treated and sent home on the same day. Open fractures (OR:53.19, CI:39.68–72.09), distal femoral fractures (OR:2.59, CI:1.78–3.78), patella (OR:10.31, CI:7.04–15.07), supracondylar humeral fractures (OR:3.10, CI:2.38–4.05), ankle fractures (OR:2.97, CI:2.26–3.92) and tibial plateau fractures (OR:2.08, CI:1.47–2.95) were more likely to be treated operatively compared to distal radius fractures.

Conclusions and relevance
The current model of fracture care in Malawi is such that trained orthopaedic surgeons manage fractures operatively in urban referral centres whereas orthopaedic clinical officers mainly manage fractures non-operatively in both district and referral centres. We recommend that orthopaedic surgeons should supervise orthopaedic clinical officers to manage non operative injuries in central and district hospitals. There is need for further studies to assess the clinical and patient reported outcomes of these fracture cases, managed both operatively and non-operatively.

Direct Cost of Illness for Spinal Cord Injury: A Systematic Review

Study Design:
Systematic review.

Providing a comprehensive review of spinal cord injury cost of illness studies to assist health-service planning.

We conducted a systematic review of the literature published from Jan. 1990 to Nov. 2020 via Pubmed, EMBASE, and NHS Economic Evaluation Database. Our primary outcomes were overall direct health care costs of SCI during acute care, inpatient rehabilitation, within the first year post-injury, and in the ensuing years.

Through a 2-phase screening process by independent reviewers, 30 articles out of 6177 identified citations were included. Cost of care varied widely with the mean cost of acute care ranging from $290 to $612,590; inpatient rehabilitation from $19,360 to $443,040; the first year after injury from $32,240 to $1,156,400; and the ensuing years from $4,490 to $251,450. Variations in reported costs were primarily due to neurological level of injury, study location, methodological heterogeneities, cost definitions, study populations, and timeframes. A cervical level of the injury, ASIA grade A and B, concomitant injuries, and in-hospital complications were associated with the greatest incremental effect in cost burden.

The economic burden of SCI is generally high and cost figures are broadly higher for developed countries. As studies were only available in few countries, the generalizability of the cost estimates to a regional or global level is only limited to countries with similar economic status and health systems. Further investigations with standardized methodologies are required to fill the knowledge gaps in the healthcare economics of SCI.

Identifying the epidemiology of traumatic injury in Benghazi, Libya through the implementation of an electronic trauma registry

Traumatic injury is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality globally, and there is little data in the literature for low middle-income countries (LMIC), although it is slowly growing. Libya has been suffering from low resources that are further strained by an ongoing civil war. Benghazi Medical Centre (BMC) is the only operating trauma public hospital in the country’s eastern region and trauma is on the rise. Currently, there is no system in place to identify the trends of traumatic injuries nor any formal surveillance. The objective of this thesis is to describe the epidemiology of traumatic injuries and identify gaps in the trauma system.Methods: This is a prospective study conducted at BMC’s emergency room through the implementation of an electronic trauma registry, iTrauma application. Data collection occurred during January of 2017 over a 10-day trial period. Upon the traumatic patient’s arrival to the emergency department twenty-five data points were collected and entered into iTrauma. Data points included patient demographics, mechanism of injury and clinical outcomes. Results: A total of 231 patients were evaluated and included into the TR. Males were at higher risk for traumatic injury making up 68% of injured patients. The average age was 31 years old, however, the majority of were in the 0-10 and 31-40 age groups. Falls were the most common cause of injury at 31%, followed closely by motor vehicle collisions at 30%. None of the patients injured in a car collision wore a seatbelt, and half of motorbike collision patients dawned helmets. The most common type of injury was bone fractures at 13% and the most common anatomical region was extremity injuries. The vast majority of trauma patients arrived by private vehicle (57%), whereas 20% arrived by ambulance. In terms of clinical outcome, 36% of patients were either treated and discharged in the ER or discharged by the 2 weeks follow up. However, there was a mortality rate of at least 11%. Conclusion: Traumatic injuries lead to a high mortality rate and carry a large burden to the individual clinically and economically. The implementation of a simple TR was shown to be feasible and has a tremendous value in identifying the epidemiology of traumatic injury, most notably falls and motor vehicle collisions. Advocating for programs that address preventative measures can have remarkable benefits in reducing morbidity and mortality. Furthermore, continued support for TR can evolve with the institution and provide ongoing improvement to quality of car

Fixation of intertrochanteric femur fractures using the SIGN intramedullary nail augmented by a lateral plate in a resource-limited setting without intraoperative fluoroscopy: assessment of functional outcomes at one-year follow-up at Juba Teaching Hospital

The incidence of hip fracture is high and increasing globally due to an aging population. Morbidity and mortality from these injuries are high at baseline and worse without prompt surgical treatment to facilitate early mobilization. Due to resource constraints, surgeons in low-income countries often must adapt available materials to meet these surgical needs. The objective of this study is to assess functional outcomes after surgical fixation of intertrochanteric femur fractures with the Surgical Implant Generation Network (SIGN) intramedullary nail augmented by a lateral SIGN plate.

Prospective case series

Juba Teaching Hospital, Tertiary Referral Hospital for South Sudan

Adult patients with intertrochanteric hip fractures

SIGN nail augmented by a lateral plate

Main Outcome Measurements:
Primary outcome was hip function as measured by a modified Harris Hip Score (mHHS) at 1-year after surgery. Secondary endpoints were the occurrence of reoperation or infection at 1-year after surgery.

Thirty patients were included, 16 (53%) men and 14 (47%) women, with a mean age of 62 years. Fractures were classified as AO/OTA Type 31A1 in 12 (40%) patients, 31A2 in 15 (50%) patients, and 31A3 in 3 (10%) patients. Mean mHHS at 1-year was 75.10 ± 21.2 with 76% categorized as excellent or good scores. There was 1 (3%) infection and 2 (7%) reoperations.

The SIGN nail augmented by a lateral plate achieved good or excellent hip function in the majority of patients with intertrochanteric hip fractures. This may be a suitable alternative to conventional implants for hip fracture patients in low-resource settings to allow mobilization.

The need for adaptable global guidance in health systems strengthening for musculoskeletal health: a qualitative study of international key informants

Musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions, MSK pain and MSK injury/trauma are the largest contributors to the global burden of disability, yet global guidance to arrest the rising disability burden is lacking. We aimed to explore contemporary context, challenges and opportunities at a global level and relevant to health systems strengthening for MSK health, as identified by international key informants (KIs) to inform a global MSK health strategic response.

An in-depth qualitative study was undertaken with international KIs, purposively sampled across high-income and low and middle-income countries (LMICs). KIs identified as representatives of peak global and international organisations (clinical/professional, advocacy, national government and the World Health Organization), thought leaders, and people with lived experience in advocacy roles. Verbatim transcripts of individual semi-structured interviews were analysed inductively using a grounded theory method. Data were organised into categories describing 1) contemporary context; 2) goals; 3) guiding principles; 4) accelerators for action; and 5) strategic priority areas (pillars), to build a data-driven logic model. Here, we report on categories 1–4 of the logic model.

Thirty-one KIs from 20 countries (40% LMICs) affiliated with 25 organisations participated. Six themes described contemporary context (category 1): 1) MSK health is afforded relatively lower priority status compared with other health conditions and is poorly legitimised; 2) improving MSK health is more than just healthcare; 3) global guidance for country-level system strengthening is needed; 4) impact of COVID-19 on MSK health; 5) multiple inequities associated with MSK health; and 6) complexity in health service delivery for MSK health. Five guiding principles (category 3) focussed on adaptability; inclusiveness through co-design; prevention and reducing disability; a lifecourse approach; and equity and value-based care. Goals (category 2) and seven accelerators for action (category 4) were also derived.

KIs strongly supported the creation of an adaptable global strategy to catalyse and steward country-level health systems strengthening responses for MSK health. The data-driven logic model provides a blueprint for global agencies and countries to initiate appropriate whole-of-health system reforms to improve population-level prevention and management of MSK health. Contextual considerations about MSK health and accelerators for action should be considered in reform activities.