Robotic external ventricular drain placement for acute neurosurgical care in low-resource settings: feasibility considerations and a prototype design

Emergency neurosurgical care in lower-middle-income countries faces pronounced shortages in neurosurgical personnel and infrastructure. In instances of traumatic brain injury (TBI), hydrocephalus, and subarachnoid hemorrhage, the timely placement of external ventricular drains (EVDs) strongly dictates prognosis and can provide necessary stabilization before transfer to a higher-level center of care that has access to neurosurgery. Accordingly, the authors have developed an inexpensive and portable robotic navigation tool to allow surgeons who do not have explicit neurosurgical training to place EVDs. In this article, the authors aimed to highlight income disparities in neurosurgical care, evaluate access to CT imaging around the world, and introduce a novel, inexpensive robotic navigation tool for EVD placement.

By combining the worldwide distribution of neurosurgeons, CT scanners, and gross domestic product with the incidence of TBI, meningitis, and hydrocephalus, the authors identified regions and countries where development of an inexpensive, passive robotic navigation system would be most beneficial and feasible. A prototype of the robotic navigation system was constructed using encoders, 3D-printed components, machined parts, and a printed circuit board.

Global analysis showed Montenegro, Antigua and Barbuda, and Seychelles to be primary candidates for implementation and feasibility testing of the novel robotic navigation system. To validate the feasibility of the system for further development, its performance was analyzed through an accuracy study resulting in accuracy and repeatability within 1.53 ± 2.50 mm (mean ± 2 × SD, 95% CI).

By considering regions of the world that have a shortage of neurosurgeons and a high incidence of EVD placement, the authors were able to provide an analysis of where to prioritize the development of a robotic navigation system. Subsequently, a proof-of-principle prototype has been provided, with sufficient accuracy to target the ventricles for EVD placement.

Impact of COVID-19 on Cardiovascular Disease Presentation, Emergency Department Triage and Inpatient Cardiology Services in a Low- to Middle-Income Country – Perspective from a Tertiary Care Hospital of Pakistan

Aims: To identify the changes in cardiovascular disease presentation, emergency room triage and inpatient diagnostic and therapeutic pathways.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi. We collected data for patients presenting to the emergency department with cardiovascular symptoms between March–July 2019 (pre-COVID period) and March–July 2020 (COVID period). The comparison was made to quantify the differences in demographics, clinical characteristics, admission, diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, and in-hospital mortality between the two periods.

Results: Of 2976 patients presenting with cardiac complaints to the emergency department (ED), 2041(69%) patients presented during the pre-COVID period, and 935 (31%) patients presented during the COVID period. There was significant reduction in acute coronary syndrome (ACS) (8% [95% CI 4–11], p < 0.001) and heart failure (↓6% [95% CI 3–8], p < 0.001). A striking surge was noted in Type II Myocardial injury (↑18% [95% CI 20–15], p < 0.001) during the pandemic. There was reduction in cardiovascular admissions (coronary care unit p < 0.01, coronary step-down unit p = 0.03), cardiovascular imaging (p < 0.001), and procedures (percutaneous coronary intervention p = 0.04 and coronary angiography p = 0.02). No significant difference was noted in mortality (4.7% vs. 3.7%). The percentage of patients presenting from rural areas declined significantly during the COVID period (18% vs. 14%, p = 0.01). In the subgroup analysis of sex, we noticed a falling trend of intervention performed in females during the COVID period (8.2% male vs. 3.3 % female). Conclusions: This study shows a significant decline in patients presenting with Type I myocardial infarction (MI) and a decrease in cardiovascular imaging and procedures during the COVID period. There was a significant increase noted in Type II MI.

Epidemiology of surgery in a protracted humanitarian setting: a 20-year retrospective study of Nyarugusu Refugee Camp, Kigoma, Western Tanzania

There are 80 million forcibly displaced persons worldwide, 26.3 million of whom are refugees. Many refugees live in camps and have complex health needs, including a high burden of non-communicable disease. It is estimated that 3 million procedures are needed for refugees worldwide, yet very few studies exist on surgery in refugee camps, particularly protracted refugee settings. This study utilizes a 20-year dataset, the longest dataset of surgery in a refugee setting to be published to date, to assess surgical output in a setting of protracted displacement.

A retrospective review of surgeries performed in Nyarugusu Camp was conducted using paper logbooks containing entries between November 2000 and September 2020 inclusive. Abstracted data were digitized into standard electronic form and included date, patient nationality, sex, age, indication, procedure performed, and anesthesia used. A second reviewer checked 10% of entries for accuracy. Entries illegible to both reviewers were excluded. Demographics, indication for surgery, procedures performed, and type of anesthesia were standardized for descriptive analysis, which was performed in STATA.

There were 10,799 operations performed over the 20-year period. Tanzanians underwent a quarter of the operations while refugees underwent the remaining 75%. Ninety percent of patients were female and 88% were 18 years of age or older. Caesarean sections were the most common performed procedure followed by herniorrhaphies, tubal ligations, exploratory laparotomies, hysterectomies, appendectomies, and repairs. The most common indications for laparotomy procedures were ectopic pregnancy, uterine rupture, and acute abdomen. Spinal anesthesia was the most common anesthesia type used. Although there was a consistent increase in procedural volume over the study period, this is largely explained by an increase in overall camp population and an increase in caesarean sections rather than increases in other, specific surgical procedures.

There is significant surgical volume in Nyarugusu Camp, performed by staff physicians and visiting surgeons. Both refugees and the host population utilize these surgical services. This work provides context to the surgical training these settings require, but further study is needed to assess the burden of surgical disease and the extent to which it is met in this setting and others.

Retrospective review of Google Trends to gauge the popularity of global surgery worldwide: A cross-sectional study

Global surgery is a growing movement worldwide, but its expansion has not been quantified. Google Search is the most popular search engine worldwide, and Google Trends analyzes its queries to determine popularity trends. We used Google Trends to analyze the regional and temporal popularity of global surgery (GS). Furthermore, we compared GS with global health (GH) to understand if the two were correlated.

This is a retrospective cross-sectional study examining Google Trends of GS and GH. We searched the terms “global surgery” and “global health” on Google Trends (Google Inc., CA, USA) from January 2004 to May 2021. We identified time trends and compared the two search terms using SPSS v26 (IBM, WA, USA) to run summary descriptive analyses and Wilcoxon rank-sum tests.

The ten countries most interested in GS were India (5.0%), the United Kingdom (5.0%), Ireland (4.0%), the United States (4.0%), Australia (3.0%), Canada (3.0%), New Zealand (3.0%), Germany (2.0%), South Africa (2.0%), and Nigeria (1.0%). GS became more popular after 2015 (2.3% vs. 1.3%, P < 0.001) and was consistently less popular than GH (1.6% vs. 45.3%, P = 0.04). The difference between GS and GH interest levels increased after 2015 (45.4% vs. 42.9%, P = 0.04). Conclusion GS is less popular than GH, more popular in high-income countries, and has become more popular after 2015 when the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery published its seminal report. The World Health Organization passed resolution WHA 68.15. Future advocacy efforts should target low- and middle-income countries primarily.

Antimicrobial resistance detection in Southeast Asian hospitals is critically important from both patient and societal perspectives, but what is its cost?

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a major threat to global health. Improving laboratory capacity for AMR detection is critically important for patient health outcomes and population level surveillance. We aimed to estimate the financial cost of setting up and running a microbiology laboratory for organism identification and antimicrobial susceptibility testing as part of an AMR surveillance programme. Financial costs for setting up and running a microbiology laboratory were estimated using a top-down approach based on resource and cost data obtained from three clinical laboratories in the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit network. Costs were calculated for twelve scenarios, considering three levels of automation, with equipment sourced from either of the two leading manufacturers, and at low and high specimen throughput. To inform the costs of detection of AMR in existing labs, the unit cost per specimen and per isolate were also calculated using a micro-costing approach. Establishing a laboratory with the capacity to process 10,000 specimens per year ranged from $254,000 to $660,000 while the cost for a laboratory processing 100,000 specimens ranged from $394,000 to $887,000. Excluding capital costs to set up the laboratory, the cost per specimen ranged from $22–31 (10,000 specimens) and $11–12 (100,000 specimens). The cost per isolate ranged from $215–304 (10,000 specimens) and $105–122 (100,000 specimens). This study provides a conservative estimate of the costs for setting up and running a microbiology laboratory for AMR surveillance from a healthcare provider perspective. In the absence of donor support, these costs may be prohibitive in many low- and middle- income country (LMIC) settings. With the increased focus on AMR detection and surveillance, the high laboratory costs highlight the need for more focus on developing cheaper and cost-effective equipment and reagents so that laboratories in LMICs have the potential to improve laboratory capacity and participate in AMR surveillance.

Health system and patient-level factors serving as facilitators and barriers to rheumatic heart disease care in Sudan

Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) remains a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa despite widely available preventive therapies such as prophylactic benzathine penicillin G (BPG). In this study, we sought to characterize facilitators and barriers to optimal RHD treatment with BPG in Sudan.

We conducted a mixed-methods study, collecting survey data from 397 patients who were enrolled in a national RHD registry between July and November 2017. The cross-sectional surveys included information on demographics, healthcare access, and patient perspectives on treatment barriers and facilitators. Factors associated with increased likelihood of RHD treatment adherence to prophylactic BPG were assessed by using adjusted logistic regression. These data were enhanced by focus group discussions with 20 participants, to further explore health system factors impacting RHD care.

Our quantitative analysis revealed that only 32% of the study cohort reported optimal prophylaxis adherence. Younger age, reduced primary RHD healthcare facility wait time, perception of adequate health facility staffing, increased treatment costs, and high patient knowledge about RHD were significantly associated with increased odds of treatment adherence. Qualitative data revealed significant barriers to RHD treatment arising from health services factors at the health system level, including lack of access due to inadequate healthcare staffing, lack of faith in local healthcare systems, poor ancillary services, and patient lack of understanding of disease. Facilitators of RHD treatment included strong interpersonal support.

Multiple patient and system-level barriers to RHD prophylaxis adherence were identified in Khartoum, Sudan. These included patient self-efficacy and participant perception of healthcare facility quality. Strengthening local health system infrastructure, while enhancing RHD patient education, may help to improve treatment adherence in this vulnerable population.

Resource constrained innovation in a technology intensive sector: Frugal medical devices from manufacturing firms in South Africa

Most medical devices are designed by western firms from efficient innovation systems with a focus on their home markets. A disproportionately high percentage of imported medical devices in low resource settings become non-functional. Despite interest from global health and innovation studies, little is known about firms in emerging markets appreciative of challenges in their home environments. Using empirical evidence from innovative manufacturing firms in South Africa, this study investigates frugal orientation and mechanisms to innovate under resource constraints, in a technology intensive sector typically under the purview of western firms. Systematic analysis of six devices by adapting a global health lens reveals that while some innovations specifically address health challenges of low resource, others are more affordable technological innovations with universal relevance and some frugal elements. Resource constrained innovation strategies involved building advanced internal manufacturing capabilities to overcome institutional voids while forging multiple knowledge collaborations to complement inhouse capabilities. This drives frugality around design, engineering and manufacturing processes. Innovation delivery strategies are complementary to these processes. The evidence suggests fundamentally new products were designed in collaborative bottom up processes. The role of the state and global non-profits in harnessing frugal innovations for public health was found to be critical.

A longitudinal surgical systems strengthening research program for medical students: the exploration of a model for global health education

In response to the staggering global burden of conditions requiring emergency and essential surgery, the development of international surgical system strengthening (SSS) is fundamental to achieving universal, timely, quality, and affordable surgical care. Opportunity exists in identifying optimal collaborative processes that both promote global surgery research and SSS, and include medical students. This study explores an education model to engage students in academic global surgery and SSS via institutional support for longitudinal research.

We set out to design a program to align global health education and longitudinal health systems research by creating an education model to engage medical students in academic global surgery and SSS.

Program design and implementation
In 2015, medical schools in the United States and Colombia initiated a collaborative partnership for academic global surgery research and SSS. This included development of two longitudinal academic tracks in global health medical education and academic global surgery, which we differentiated by level of institutional resourcing. Herein is a retrospective evaluation of the first two years of this program by using commonly recognized academic output metrics.

Main achievements
In the first two years of the program, there were 76 total applicants to the two longitudinal tracks. Six of the 16 (37.5%) accepted students selected global surgery faculty as mentors (Acute Care Surgery faculty participating in SSS with Colombia). These global surgery students subsequently spent 24 total working weeks abroad over the two-year period participating in culminating research experiences in SSS. As a quantitative measure of the program’s success, the students collectively produced a total of twenty scholarly pieces in the form of accepted posters, abstracts, podium presentations, and manuscripts in partnership with Colombian research mentors.

Policy implications
The establishment of scholarly global health education and research tracks has afforded our medical students an active role in international SSS through participation in academic global surgery research. We propose that these complementary programs can serve as a model for disseminated education and training of the future global systems-aware surgeon workforce with bidirectional growth in south and north regions with traditionally under-resourced SSS training programs.

Mixed Methods Evaluation of Simulation-Based Training for Postpartum Hemorrhage Management in Guatemala

To assess if simulation-based training (SBT) of B-lynch suture and uterine balloon tamponade (UBT) for the management of postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) impacted provider attitudes, practice patterns, and patient management in Guatemala, using a mixed-methods approach.

We conducted an in-country SBT course on the management of PPH in a governmental teaching hospital in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Participants were OB/GYN providers (n = 39) who had or had not received SBT before. Surveys and qualitative interviews evaluated provider knowledge and experiences with B-lynch and UBT to treat PPH. In addition, a retrospective chart review was performed to evaluate management of PPH over a 2-year period before and after the introduction of SBT.

Multiple-choice surveys indicated that providers who received SBT were more comfortable performing and teaching B-lynch compared to those who did not (p = 0.003 and 0.005). Qualitative interviews revealed increased provider comfort with B-lynch compared to UBT and identified multiple barriers to uterine balloon tamponade implementation. Chart review demonstrated an increased use of UBT after the introduction of simulation-based training, though not statistically significant (p = 0.06) in contrast to no change in B-lynch use.

Simulation-based training had a stronger impact on provider comfort with B-lynch compared to uterine balloon tamponade. Qualitative interviews provided insight into the challenges that hinder uptake of uterine balloon tamponade, namely resource limitations and decision-making hierarchies. Capturing data through a mixed-methods approach allowed for more comprehensive program evaluation in low and middle income countries (LMICs).

Association between government policy and delays in emergent and elective surgical care during the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil: a modeling study

The impact of public health policy to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on access to surgical care is poorly defined. We aim to quantify the surgical backlog during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Brazilian public health system and determine the relationship between state-level policy response and the degree of state-level delays in public surgical care.

Monthly estimates of surgical procedures performed per state from January 2016 to December 2020 were obtained from Brazil’s Unified Health System Informatics Department. Forecasting models using historical surgical volume data before March 2020 (first reported COVID-19 case) were constructed to predict expected monthly operations from March through December 2020. Total, emergency, and elective surgical monthly backlogs were calculated by comparing reported volume to forecasted volume. Linear mixed effects models were used to model the relationship between public surgical delivery and two measures of health policy response: the COVID-19 Stringency Index (SI) and the Containment & Health Index (CHI) by state.

Between March and December 2020, the total surgical backlog included 1,119,433 (95% Confidence Interval 762,663–1,523,995) total operations, 161,321 (95%CI 37,468–395,478) emergent operations, and 928,758 (95%CI 675,202–1,208,769) elective operations. Increased SI and CHI scores were associated with reductions in emergent surgical delays but increases in elective surgical backlogs. The maximum government stringency (score = 100) reduced emergency delays to nearly zero but tripled the elective surgical backlog.

Strong health policy efforts to contain COVID-19 ensure minimal reductions in delivery of emergent surgery, but dramatically increase elective backlogs. Additional coordinated government efforts will be necessary to specifically address the increased elective backlogs that accompany stringent responses.