Surgical Capacity in Rural Southeast Nigeria: Barriers and New Opportunities

Background: Remarkable gains have been made in global health with respect to provision of essential and emergency surgical and anesthesia care. At the same time, little has been written about the state of surgical care, or the potential strategies for scale-up of surgical services in sub-Saharan Africa, southeast Nigeria inclusive.

Objective: The aim was to document the state of surgical care at district hospitals in southeast Nigeria.

Methods: We surveyed 13 district hospitals using the World Health Organization (WHO) tool for situational analysis developed by the “Lancet Commission on Global Surgery” initiative to assess surgical care in rural Southeast Nigeria. A systematic literature review of scientific literatures and policy documents was performed. Extraction was performed for all articles relating to the five National Surgical, Obstetric and Anesthesia Plans (NSOAPs) domains: infrastructure, service delivery, workforce, information management and financing.

Findings: Of the 13 facilities investigated, there were six private, four mission and three public hospitals. Though all the facilities were connected to the national power grid, all equally suffered electricity interruption ranging from 10–22 hours daily. Only 15.4% and 38.5% of the 13 hospitals had running water and blood bank services, respectively. Only two general surgeon and two orthopedic surgeons covered all the facilities. Though most of the general surgical procedures were performed in private and mission hospitals, the majority of the public hospitals had limited ability to do the same. Orthopedic procedures were practically non-existent in public hospitals. None of the facilities offered inhalational anesthetic technique. There was no designated record unit in 53.8% of facilities and 69.2% had no trained health record officer.

Conclusion: Important deficits were observed in infrastructure, service delivery, workforce and information management. There were indirect indices of gross inadequacies in financing as w

Assessing the global burden of hemorrhage: The global blood supply, deficits, and potential solutions

There is a critical shortage of blood available for transfusion in many low- and middle-income countries. The consequences of this scarcity are dire, resulting in uncounted morbidity and mortality from trauma, obstetric hemorrhage, and pediatric anemias, among numerous other conditions. The process of collecting blood from a donor to administering it to a patient involves many facets from donor availability to blood processing to blood delivery. Each step faces particular challenges in low- and middle-income countries. Optimizing existing strategies and introducing new approaches will be imperative to ensure a safe and sufficient blood supply worldwide.

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.

Access to burn care in low-and middle-income countries: An assessment of timeliness, surgical capacity, and affordability in a regional referral hospital in Tanzania

This study investigates patients’ access to surgical care for burns in a low-and-middle-income setting by studying timeliness, surgical capacity, and affordability. A survey was conducted in a regional referral hospital in Manyara, Tanzania. In total, 67 patients were included. To obtain information on burn victims in need of surgical care, irrespective of time lapsed from the burn injury, both patients with burn wounds and patients with contractures were included. Information provided by patients and/or caregivers was supplemented with data from patient files and interviews with hospital administration and physicians. In the burn wound group, 50 percent reached a facility within 24 hours after the injury. Referrals from other health facilities to the regional referral hospital were made within three weeks for 74 percent in this group. Of contracture patients, seventy four percent, had sought healthcare after the acute burn injury. Of the same group, only 4 percent had been treated with skin grafts beforehand, and 70 percent never received surgical care or a referral. Combined, both groups indicated that lack of trust, surgical capacity, and referral timeliness were important factors negatively impacting patient access to surgical care. Accounting for hospital fees indicated patients routinely exceeded the catastrophic expenditure threshold. It was determined that healthcare for burn victims is without financial risk protection. We recommend strengthening burn care and reconstructive surgical programs in similar settings, using a more comprehensive health systems approach to identify and address both medical and socio-economic factors that determine patient mortality and disability.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on international reconstructive collaborations in Africa

The SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic has catalysed a widespread humanitarian crisis in many low- and middle-income countries around the world, with many African nations significantly impacted. The aim of this study was to quantify the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the planning and provision of international reconstructive collaborations in Africa.

An anonymous, 14-question, multiple choice questionnaire was sent to 27 non-governmental organisations who regularly perform reconstructive surgery in Africa. The survey was open to responses for four weeks, closing on the 7th of March 2021. A single reminder was sent out at 2 weeks. The survey covered four key domains: (1) NGO demographics; (2) the impact of COVID-19 on patient follow-up; (3) barriers to the safe provision of international surgical collaborations during COVID-19; (4) the impact of COVID-19 on NGO funding.

A total of ten reconstructive NGOs completed the survey (response rate, 37%). Ethiopia (n = 5) and Tanzania (n = 4) were the countries where most collaborations took place. Plastic, reconstructive and burns surgery was the most common sub-speciality (n = 7). For NGOs that did not have a year-round presence in country (n = 8), only one NGO was able to perform reconstructive surgery in Africa during the pandemic. The most common barrier identified was travel restrictions (within country, n = 8 or country entry-exit, n = 7). Pre-pandemic, 1547 to ≥ 1800 patients received reconstructive surgery on international surgical collaborations. After the outbreak, 70% of NGOs surveyed had treated no patients, with approximately 1405 to ≥ 1640 patients left untreated over the last year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed huge pressures on health services and their delivery across the globe. This theme has extended into international surgical collaborations leading to increased unmet surgical needs in low- and middle-income countries.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global neurosurgical education: a systematic review

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted neurosurgical training worldwide, with the shutdown of academic institutions and the reduction of elective surgical procedures. This impact has disproportionately affected LMICs (lower- and/or middle-income countries), already burdened by a lack of neurosurgical resources. Thus, a systematic review was conducted to examine these challenges and innovations developed to adapt effective teaching and learning for medical students and neurosurgical trainees. A systematic review was conducted in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis Protocols (PRISMA-P) and The Cochrane Handbook of Systematic Reviews of Interventions. MEDLINE, PubMed, Embase and Cochrane databases were accessed, searching and screening literature from December 2019 to 5th December 2020 with set inclusion and exclusion criteria. Screening identified 1254 articles of which 26 were included, providing data from 96 countries. Twenty-three studies reported transition to online learning, with 8 studies also mentioned redeployment into COVID wards with 2 studies mentioning missed surgical exposure as a consequence. Of 7 studies conducted in LMICs, 3 reported residents suffering financial insecurities from reduced surgical caseload and recession. Significant global disruption in neurosurgical teaching and training has arisen from the COVID-19 pandemic. Decreased surgical exposure has negatively impacted educational provision. However, advancements in virtual technology have allowed for more affordable, accessible training especially in LMICs. Using this, initiatives to reduce physical and mental stress experienced by trainees should be paramount.

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.

Global Surgery Education and Training Programmes—a Scoping Review and Taxonomy

Global surgery is an emerging field of study and practice, aiming to respond to the worldwide unmet need for surgical care. As a relatively new concept, it is not clear that there is a common understanding of what constitutes “global surgery education and training”. This study examines the forms that global surgery education and training programmes and interventions take in practice, and proposes a classification scheme for such activities. A scoping review of published journal articles and internet websites was performed according to the PRISMA Extension for Scoping Review guidelines. PubMed MEDLINE, EMBASE and Google were searched for sources that described global surgery education and training programme. Only sources that explicitly referenced a named education programme, were surgical in nature, were international in nature, were self-described as “global surgery” and presented new information were included. Three hundred twenty-seven records were identified and 67 were ultimately included in the review. “Global surgery education and training” interventions described in the literature most commonly involved both a High-Income Country (HIC) institution and a Low- and Middle-Income Country (LMIC) institution. The literature suggests that significant current effort is directed towards academic global surgery programmes in HIC institutions and HIC surgical trainee placements in LMICs. Four categories and ten subcategories of global surgery education and training were identified. This paper provides a framework from which to study global surgery education and training. A clearer understanding of the forms that such interventions take may allow for more strategic decision making by actors in this field

ERAS Society Recommendations for Improving Perioperative Care in Low- and Middle-Income Countries Through Implementation of Existing Tools and Programs: An Urgent Need for the Surgical Safety Checklist and Enhanced Recovery After Surgery

The Lancet Commission and Global Surgery Foundation in 2015 highlighted the need for access to safe and affordable surgical and anesthetic care in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) [1]. Patients that do have access to care in LMICs, however, have a higher risk of complications and mortality than in high-income countries (HICs). Ninety-six percent of all perioperative deaths worldwide occur in LMICs, and the economic impact of this is a staggering 2.6% of the combined gross domestic product of LMICs [1]. Although it is a common belief that the greatest contributors to adverse outcomes in LMICs are poor access to care and late presentation, deficits in the quality of accessible care are a substantial concern.

Following the Lancet Commission and the World Health Assembly Resolution 68.15, all member countries committed to developing a National, Surgical, Obstetric and Anaesthesia Plan (NSOAP) to assist in improving access to safe surgery and anesthesia [1]. The missing link in the NSOAP strategy is support for the implementation of standardized, evidence-based perioperative care guidelines and tools to measure guideline compliance and outcomes. This is crucial not only because of the need to improve perioperative care but as access to safe surgery and anesthesia improves, there is likely to be increased patient volume and pressure on the healthcare system to provide quality surgical care. A new set of tools need not be developed to improve perioperative care in LMICs. These tools already exist with evidence for their effectiveness. The Surgical Safety Checklist (SSC) and Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) Program are two examples [2, 3]. Barriers to acceptance, adoption, and implementation of existing tools present the greatest hurdles that must be overcome to improve perioperative outcomes in LMICs.

The SSC is a communication tool used by the surgical team to confirm that appropriate actions are taken in the perioperative period to maintain patient safety. At the same time, the three pause points within the checklist include conversation prompts to ensure there is a shared understanding between the surgical team members. The SSC was designed to optimize its effectiveness in LMICs with a focus on influencing globally relevant outcomes using recommendations that are applicable and supported by the resources in LMICs. As a result, the use of the SSC has been shown to significantly reduce perioperative morbidity and mortality in LMICs as well as in HIC settings, and its impact may be larger when implemented well in LMICs [2].

Despite evidence of effectiveness, the acceptance and adoption of the SSC remain poor in LMICs with ranges between 20 and 40% when compared with facilities in HIC where rates of adoption range between 80 and 95% [4]. The reasons for this failed penetrance relate to a lack of resources and infrastructure for initial and ongoing implementation and audits and surgical hierarchies that may not support aspects of the SSC, such as encouraging all members of the team to vocalize concerns if they exist. The barriers to successful implementation are further exacerbated by checklist fatigue and similar factors that also lead to decreased meaningful use in HICs. The need for improved implementation of the SSC in LMICs has been recognized by global health organizations. With this increased focus on quality and safety initiatives and implementation, it is time to consider other strategies for improvement.

ERAS is another tool that has the potential to benefit LMICs with strategies that have demonstrated benefits across a variety of settings and clinical outcomes [3]. The ERAS program is based on implementation of evidence-based clinical practice guidelines performed by a multidisciplinary perioperative team, using tools to monitor and evaluate compliance to the guidelines and patient outcomes concurrently. Randomized trials of ERAS-based care vs traditional care conducted in HICs have shown a significant reduction in length of stay (20–40%) and complications (20–30%). Cost studies of ERAS have demonstrated a return-on-investment ratio up to 7.3 (i.e., a savings of $7.3 for every $1 invested), showing that ERAS is value-based surgery [3].

There are few established ERAS programs in LMICs, however, data from these centers demonstrate similar benefits to HICs [5]. Whether these benefits can be achieved at scale remains unknown, and the crux of the issue relates to how ERAS is applied in tertiary-university centers in LMICs compared to the district and regional levels. ERAS guidelines in their current format are specialty-specific, predominantly for elective procedures, and thus likely to be easily implemented in tertiary-university LMIC hospitals, which have similar subspecialty units. The implementation in these units will have the added benefit of facilitating the teaching and training of all perioperative team members.

The greatest unmet surgical and anesthetic need is, however, at the district and regional level in LMICs [1]. Unlike tertiary hospitals, surgery in these centers is often performed on an emergency basis by surgeons with no sub-specialty training. To address this gap, the ERAS® Society, in partnership with the World Bank and perioperative leaders in LMICs, has undertaken the development of a generic perioperative ERAS® Society guideline for elective and emergency surgery. This approach will integrate the SSC and be applied to patients undergoing a variety of operations including general and obstetrical surgery. These practices will focus on key ERAS measures such as patient education/engagement, avoidance of opioids and prolonged fasting, early mobilization, and early feeding. In addition to these guidelines, the ERAS® Society and World Bank are developing a tailored implementation program and monitoring tool to assess guideline compliance and patient outcomes specifically targeted to LMICs.

ERAS and the SSC share a similar quality that makes them well-suited for adoption in poorly resourced settings—that is their adaptability. Both tools are designed to be tailored to suit the context in which they will be adopted. Combining the NSOAP strategy with existing tools such as SSC and ERAS have the potential to provide a platform to improve the quality of surgical care in LMICs with improved patient outcomes and service efficiency, at scale, rapidly and make a significant contribution to addressing the unmet surgical and anesthetic need in LMICs.