Priorities for peri‐operative research in Africa

Deaths following surgery are the third largest contributor to deaths globally, and in Africa are twice the global average. There is a need for a peri‐operative research agenda to ensure co‐ordinated, collaborative research efforts across Africa in order to decrease peri‐operative mortality. The objective was to determine the top 10 research priorities for peri‐operative research in Africa. A Delphi technique was used to establish consensus on the top research priorities. The top 10 research priorities identified were (1) Develop training standards for peri‐operative healthcare providers (surgical, anaesthesia and nursing) in Africa; (2) Develop minimum provision of care standards for peri‐operative healthcare providers (surgical, anaesthesia and nursing) in Africa; (3) Early identification and management of mothers at risk from peripartum haemorrhage in the peri‐operative period; (4) The role of communication and teamwork between surgical, anaesthetic, nursing and other teams involved in peri‐operative care; (5) A facility audit/African World Health Organization situational analysis tool audit to assess emergency and essential surgical care, which includes anaesthetic equipment available and level of training and knowledge of peri‐operative healthcare providers (surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses); (6) Establishing evidence‐based practice guidelines for peri‐operative physicians in Africa; (7) Economic analysis of strategies to finance access to surgery in Africa; (8) Establishment of a minimum dataset surgical registry; (9) A quality improvement programme to improve implementation of the surgical safety checklist; and (10) Peri‐operative outcomes associated with emergency surgery. These peri‐operative research priorities provide the structure for an intermediate‐term research agenda to improve peri‐operative outcomes across Africa

Improving emergency obstetric referral systems in low and middle income countries: a qualitative study in a tertiary health facility in Ghana.

Timely access to emergency obstetric care is crucial in preventing mortalities associated with pregnancy and childbirth. The referral of patients from lower levels of care to higher levels has been identified as an integral component of the health care delivery system in Ghana. To this effect, in 2012, the National Referral Policy and Guidelines was developed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to help improve standard procedures and reduce delays which affect access to emergency care. Nonetheless, ensuring timely access to care during referral of obstetric emergencies has been problematic. The study aimed to identify barriers associated with the referral of emergency obstetric cases to the leading national referral centre. It specifically examines the lived experiences of patients, healthcare providers and relatives of patients on the referral system. Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Accra was used as a case study in 2016.The qualitative method was used and in-depth interviews were conducted with 89 respondents: healthcare providers [n = 34];patients [n = 31] and relatives of patients [n = 24] using semi-structured interview guides. Purposive sampling techniques were used in selecting healthcare providers and patients and convenience sampling techniques were used in selecting relatives of patients. The study identified a range of barriers encountered in the referral process and broadly fall under the major themes: referral transportation system, referrer-receiver communication barriers, inadequate infrastructure and supplies and insufficient health personnel. Some highlights of the problem included inadequate use of ambulance services, poor management of patients during transit, lack of professional escort, unannounced emergency referrals, lack of adequate information and feedback and limited supply of beds, drugs and blood. These findings have implications on type II and III of the three delays model. Initiatives to improve the transportation system for the referral of obstetric emergencies are vital in ensuring patients’ safety during transfer. Communication between referring and receiving facilities should be enhanced. A strong collaboration is needed between teaching hospitals and other stakeholders in the referral chain to foster good referral practices and healthcare delivery. Concurrently, supply side barriers at referred facilities including ensuring sufficient provision for bed, blood, drugs, and personnel must be addressed.

Does insurance protect individuals from catastrophic payments for surgical care? An analysis of Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme at Korle-Bu teaching Hospital

According to the World Health Organization, essential surgery should be recognized as an essential component of universal health coverage. In Ghana, insurance is associated with a reduction in maternal mortality and improved access to essential medications, but whether it eliminates financial barriers to surgery is unknown. This study tested the hypothesis that insurance protects surgical patients against financial catastrophe.

We interviewed patients admitted to the general surgery wards of Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) between February 1, 2017 – October 1, 2017 to obtain demographic data, income, occupation, household expenditures, and insurance status. Surgical diagnoses and procedures, procedural fees, and anesthesia fees incurred were collected through chart review. The data were collected on a Qualtrics platform and analyzed in STATA version 14.1. Fisher exact and Student T-tests were used to compare the insured and uninsured groups. Threshold for financial catastrophe was defined as health costs that exceeded 10% of household expenditures, 40% of non-food expenditures, or 20% of the individual’s income.

Among 196 enrolled patients, insured patients were slightly older [mean 49 years vs 40 years P < 0.05] and more of them were female [65% vs 41% p < 0.05]. Laparotomy (22.2%) was the most common surgical procedure for both groups. Depending on the definition, 58–87% of insured patients would face financial catastrophe, versus 83–98% of uninsured patients (all comparisons by definition were significant, p < .05).

This study—the first to evaluate the impact of insurance on financial risk protection for surgical patients in Ghana—found that although insured patients were less likely than uninsured to face financial catastrophe as a result of their surgery, more than half of insured surgical patients treated at KBTH were not protected from financial catastrophe under the Ghana’s national health insurance scheme due to out-of-pocket payments. Government-specific strategies to increase the proportion of cost covered and to enroll the uninsured is crucial to achieving universal health coverage inclusive of surgical care.

An International Collaborative Study on Surgical Education for Quality Improvement (ASSURED): A Project by the 2017 International Society of Surgery (ISS/SIC) Travel Scholars International Working Group

Background: There is a huge difference in the standard of surgical training in different countries around the world. The disparity is more obvious in the various models of surgical training in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) compared to high-income countries. Although the global training model of surgeons is evolving from an apprenticeship model to a competency-based model with additional training using simulation, the training of surgeons in LMICs still lacks a standard pathway of training.

Methods: This is a qualitative, descriptive, and collaborative study conducted in six LMICs across Asia, Africa, and South America. The data were collected on the status of surgical education in these countries as per the guidelines designed for the ASSURED project along with plans for quality improvement in surgical education in these countries.

Results: The training model in these selected LMICs appears to be a hybrid of the standard models of surgical training. The training models were tailored to the country’s need, but many fail to meet international standards. There are many areas identified that can be addressed in order to improve the quality of surgical education in these countries.

Conclusions: Many areas need to be improved for a better quality of surgical training in LMICs. There is a need of financial, technical, and research support for the improvement in these models of surgical education in LMICs.

Global surgery volunteerism with operation hernia: a trainee surgeon’s experience

Access to adequate health services is a universal right for individuals and lack of it can have adverse consequences. The elective hernia repair rate in Ghana remains low and a considerable number of inguinal hernias still present as emergencies. Operation hernia is a charitable, UK-based organization that supports the healthcare infrastructure in Ghana through the provision of elective hernia repairs to prevent complications. Mesh repairs are carried out using sterilized, affordable mesh which is made of polyester and is a cheaper alternative to the expensive, commercial mesh. In November 2017 Operation hernia sent two teams of Surgeons and scrub nurses to work in two hospitals in Ghana. This was a successful mission that resulted in more than 150 successful hernia repairs. This article is written by a full-time general surgical ST6 Registrar detailing her first experience as a volunteer surgeon in Volta Regional Hospital in the town of Ho and the rewards reaped from this global surgical volunteerism experience.

Universal Access to Surgical Care and Sustainable Development in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Case for Surgical Systems Research

National level experiences, lessons learnt from the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) era coupled with the academic evidence and proposals generated by the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery (LCoGS) together with the economic arguments and recommendations from the World Bank Group’s “Essential Surgery” Disease Control Priorities (DCP3) publication, provided the impetus for political commitments to improve surgical care capacity at the primary level of the healthcare system in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) as part of their drive towards universal health coverage (UHC) in the form of World Health Organization (WHO) Resolution A68.15.

This global commitment from governments must be followed up with development of a Global Action Plan and a global coordination mechanism supported by regional implementation frameworks on the part of the WHO in order for the organisation to better coordinate all stakeholders and sustain the technical support needed to develop and implement national surgical health policy in the form of National Surgical Obstetric and Anaesthesia Plans (NSOAPs). As expounded by Gajewski et al, data and research output on surgical care is essential to informing policy development and programme implementation. This area still remains a challenge in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) but it is envisaged that countries will include this key component in their ongoing national surgical healthcare policy development and programme implementation. In the Zambian case study, research in the area of Global Surgery investment-the surgical workforce scale-up is used to demonstrate the important role of implementation research in the development and implementation of the Zambian NSOAP as well as the need for international collaborations to this end. Scale-up reviews informed by implementation research to evaluate progress on the commitments contained in Resolution A68.15 and Decision A70.22 are essential to sustain the momentum and to help maintain focus on the gaps in all countries. There are opportunities for non-state actors especially local sub-regional academic institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private sector to play a key role in surgical healthcare policy development and implementation research. Collection of and better information management of standardised surgical care indicators is essential for such research, for bi-annual WHO progress reporting and for demonstration of impact to justify and encourage further investments in surgical care.

Incidence of pyramidal thyroid lobe in the university college hospital Ibadan

The pyramidal lobe of the thyroid gland is derived from remnant of the thyroglossal duct. Its presence may be missed clinically; however radiologic and intra-operative findings reveal its presence in up to 50% of cases. The incidence of pyramidal lobe is however not clearly known in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in Nigeria. Our aim is to determine the incidence and histological variation of pyramidal lobe of the thyroid gland among surgical patients who underwent thyroid surgery in the University College Hospital, Ibadan.
Consecutive surgical patients that underwent total thyroidectomy in the Endocrine Surgery Division, Department of Surgery, University College Hospital, Ibadan between April 2013 and April 2017 were recruited irrespective of age, sex and clinical diagnosis. The presence, anatomy and subsequent histological diagnosis of the pyramidal lobe were noted.
One hundred sixty thyroid surgeries were done. Pyramidal lobe was found in 70 patients (44.0%). The presence of the pyramidal lobe was most often associated with multinodular goitres 42 (61.8%) and least found in thyroids with malignant tumours 3 (4.4%). The pyramidal lobe originated commonly from the midline (50.0%) and least from the right (10.3%). The length of the pyramidal lobes ranged from 8 to 80 mm (average 50 mm) in males and 5 to 54 mm (average 42 mm) in females.
The presence of a pyramidal lobe is not uncommon in people of southwestern Nigeria with its morphologic and histologic profile akin to what obtains in other geographical locations of the world.

Utilisation of blood and blood products during open heart surgery in a low-income country: our local experience in 3 years

In Nigeria, access to open heart surgery (OHS) is adversely affected by insufficient blood and blood products, including the challenges because of the lack of patient-focused blood management strategies owing to the absent requisite point-of-care tests in the operating theatre (OR)/ICU. In addition, the limited availability of altruistic blood donors including the detection of transfusion transmitted infections more commonly among non-altruistic blood donors is another burden affecting the management of excessive bleeding during and after open heart surgery in our country.
The objective of this study was to review our local experience in the use of blood and blood products during open heart surgery and compare the same with the literature.Materials and methodsIn a period of 3 years (March, 2013-February, 2016), we performed a retrospective review of those who had open heart surgery in our institution. The data were obtained from our hospital health information technology department. The data comprised demography, types of operative procedures and units of blood and blood products transfused per procedure, including the details regarding the usage of the cell saver, as well as those who had severe bleeding requiring excessive blood transfusion.
During the study period, 102 patients had open heart surgery, an average of 34 cases in a year. Among them, there were 75 (73.53%) males and 37 (36.27%) females, giving a ratio of 2:1. The ages of the patients were from 0.6 (7/12) to 74 years. Mitral valve procedure was the most common (n=22, 21.6%) surgery type. Transfusion requirements averaged 1.9 units of fresh frozen plasma, 0.36 units of platelet concentrate, and 1.68 units of packed cells per procedure. The least common surgical procedure was common atrium repair (n=1, 0.01%).
Open heart procedure is a very complex procedure requiring cardiopulmonary bypass with associated severe perioperative bleeding. The attendant blood loss and haemostatic challenges are combated by intricate and selective transfusions of allogeneic blood and or blood products.

Socioeconomic restraints and brain tumor surgery in low-income countries

Healthcare spending has become a grave concern to national budgets worldwide, and to a greater extent in low-income countries. Brain tumors are a serious disease that affects a significant percentage of the population, and thus proper allocation of healthcare provisions for these patients to achieve acceptable outcomes is a must. The authors reviewed patients undergoing craniotomy for tumor resection at their institution for the preceding 3 months. All the methods used for preoperative planning, intraoperative management, and postoperative care of these patients were documented. Compromises to limit spending were made at each stage to limit expenditure, including low-resolution MRI, sparse use of intraoperative monitoring and image guidance, and lack of dedicated postoperative neurocritical ICU. This study included a cohort of 193 patients. The average cost from diagnosis to discharge was $1795 per patient (costs are expressed in USD). On average, there was a mortality rate of 10.5% and a neurological morbidity rate of 14%, of whom only 82.2% improved on discharge or at follow-up. The average length of stay at the hospital for these patients was 9.09 days, with a surgical site infection rate of only 3.5%. The authors believe that despite the great number of financial limitations facing neurosurgical practice in low-income countries, surgery can still be performed with reasonable outcomes.

Challenges to providing open heart surgery for 186 million Nigerians

Background: Open heart surgery is nonexistent or undeveloped in many African countries due to the prerequisite for specialized multispecialty teams, expensive equipment, and consumables. This review aims to outline strategies for facilitating local skilled workforce training, improve patients’ access, and sustain heart surgery in Africa’s most populous nation. Methods: We reviewed the demographic, socioeconomic, and health metrics published by the United Nations, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank, and other relevant sources for the top three African economies – South Africa, Nigeria, and Egypt. Results: South Africa classified as upper-middle-income nation with gross national income [GNI] $12,475–$4126 spends 8.8% of gross domestic product (GDP), while Egypt and Nigeria both classified as lower-middle-income nations GNI $4125–$1046 spends 5.6% and 3.7% of GDP, respectively, on health care. Egypt performed 45%, South Africa 39%, and Nigeria 0.1% of their WHO projected annual heart surgery volume in 2015. These capacities are consistent with the human development index (HDI), thoracic surgeon-to-population ratio, and health insurance coverage ranking of these countries. Conclusion: Although gross income per capita is comparable, the HDI – a better discriminator of development is higher in Egypt with 0.69 against 0.51 in Nigeria, as evidenced by their respective heart surgery capacities. While the WHO projected 72,000 cases/annum for Nigeria is unattainable with the present workforce, the Pan African Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery (PASCATS) 40/1 million population projection of 7200 cases/annum appears a more realistic goal. However achieving even this modest target will require government political willpower and increased budgetary allocation for expanding insurance coverage. PASCATS advocates three mentorship models: resident senior local consultant, mission teams and senior expatriate consultant, with centralization through regional referral centers as viable pathways to develop cardiac surgery in sub Saharan Africa. Regionalization optimizes the scarce workforce and resources and therefore by combining assets can fast track skill acquisition by trainee surgeons.