Protocol for a Systematic Review of Outcomes From Microsurgical Free Tissue Transfer Performed on Short-term Surgical Missions in Low-income and Middle-income Countries



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Protocol for a Systematic Review of Outcomes From Microsurgical Free Tissue Transfer Performed on Short-term Surgical Missions in Low-income and Middle-income Countries

JournalSystematic Reviews
Article typePre-print – Systematic review
Publication date – Jan – 2021
Authors – Henry Tobias de Berker, Urška Čebron, Daniel Bradley, Vinod Patel, Meklit Berhane, Fernando Almas, Gary Walton, Mekonen Eshete, Mark McGurk, Dominique Martin, Calum Honeyman
KeywordsFree flap, Free tissue transfer, Humanitarian missions, Low-income and middle-income countries, Microsurgery, Resource-Limited Settings, short-term surgical missions
Open access – Yes
SpecialityPaediatric surgery, Plastic surgery
World region Global

Language – English
Submitted to the One Surgery Index on January 27, 2021 at 10:42 am

Background: In many units around the world, microsurgical free tissue transfer represents the gold standard for reconstruction of significant soft tissue defects following cancer, trauma or infection. However, many reconstructive units in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs) do not yet have access to the resources, infrastructure or training required to perform any microsurgical procedures. Long-term international collaborations have been formed with annual short-term reconstructive missions conducting microsurgery. In the first instance, these provide reconstructive surgery to those who need it. In the longer-term, they offer an opportunity for teaching and the development of sustainable local services.

Methods: A PRISMA-compliant systematic review and meta-analysis will be performed. A comprehensive, predetermined search strategy will be applied to the MEDLINE and Embase electronic databases from inception to December 2020. All clinical studies presenting sufficient data on free tissue transfer performed on short-term surgical missions (STSMs) in LMICs will be eligible for inclusion. The primary outcomes are rate of free flap failure, rate of emergency return to theatre for free flap salvage and successful salvage rate. The secondary outcomes include postoperative complications and any functional or patient reported outcome measures. Screening of studies, data extraction and assessments of study quality and bias will be conducted by two authors. Individual study quality will be assessed according to the Oxford Evidence-based Medicine Scales of Evidence 2, and risk of bias using either the ‘Revised Cochrane risk of bias tool for randomized trials’ (Rob2), or the ‘Risk of bias in non-randomized studies of interventions’ (ROBINS-I) tools. Overall strength of evidence will be assessed according to the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluations (GRADE) approach.

Discussion: To-date the outcomes of microsurgical procedures performed on STSMs to LMICs are largely unknown. Improved education, funding and allocation of resources are needed to support surgeons in LMICs to perform free tissue transfer. STSMs provide a vehicle for sustainable collaboration and training. Disseminating microsurgical skills could improve the care received by patients living with reconstructive pathology in LMICs, but this is poorly established. This study sets out a robust protocol for a systematic review designed to critically analyse outcomes.

OSI Number – 20900

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