Safe and Standard Thyroid Cancer Surgery, or Lack Thereof: Patterns and Correlates of Patient Referral to Tertiary Care Centre for Revision Thyroid Surgery in a LMIC

Background A surgeon’s characteristics such as volume and practice setup are essential elements in outcome of thyroid cancer. However, little information is available from the developing world regarding qualities of primary surgeon, such as level of knowledge, skill, and proper documentation while referring to higher center.

Methods Records of 164 patients of differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) from January 1990 to December 2018 undergoing revision thyroid surgery following primary surgery elsewhere were retrospectively analyzed.

Results Out of 164 patients with postoperative diagnosis of DTC, referral patterns were as follows: low volume (LV) to high volume (HV) (n = 120, 73.2%), followed by HV to HV (n = 44, 26.8%). The primary surgery assessed by the extent of residual disease was in agreement with the documentation in only 55%. The type of thyroidectomy performed was not mentioned in 9.8%. The status of the parathyroid glands was mentioned only in 15.8% and recurrent laryngeal nerve in 12.2%. Less than recommended surgery was performed in 52.5% patients. Despite less than recommended surgery, 44.5% patients were directly referred for radioactive iodine ablation (RAIA). Thirty two percent patients were referred for RAIA after hemithyroidectomy. Central or lateral compartment lymphadenectomy, even after indication, was less likely at LV centers (risk ratio [RR], 0.71; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.64–0.77). Similarly, for DTC patients, the relationship between LV center surgery and subsequent referral for RAIA was RR, 0.71 (95% CI, 0.48–1.02).

Conclusions Most patients referred from LV surgeons are less likely to have proper thyroidectomy, have inadequate documentation of the primary surgery, and are referred for RAIA after less than total thyroidectomy. Our study highlights the lacunae in the approach to and understanding of thyroid cancer surgery by secondary care physicians in our country. We believe that there is an urgent necessity of educational reform and training to rectify this problem.

Interventional radiology in low- and middle-income countries

With advancements in imaging techniques, interventional radiology (IR) has found an increased utility in multiple diseases such as ischemic stroke, tissue biopsies, oncology, trauma, etc. The benefit has been twofold in being minimally invasive and improved outcomes. IR in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is still in its nascent phase. The many hurdles include poorly structured post-graduate training, cost of procedures, and lack of awareness among referring physicians. There is a significant need to increase the trained specialists’ awareness among the medical community and rationalize the cost of procedures in LMICs with careful consideration, planning, and international economic and technical assistance.

Identification and Evaluation of Methodologies to Assess the Quality of Mobile Health Apps in High-, Low-, and Middle-Income Countries: Rapid Review

Background:
In recent years, there has been rapid growth in the availability and use of mobile health (mHealth) apps around the world. A consensus regarding an accepted standard to assess the quality of such apps has yet to be reached. A factor that exacerbates the challenge of mHealth app quality assessment is variations in the interpretation of quality and its subdimensions. Consequently, it has become increasingly difficult for health care professionals worldwide to distinguish apps of high quality from those of lower quality. This exposes both patients and health care professionals to unnecessary risks. Despite progress, limited understanding of the contributions of researchers in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) exists on this topic. Furthermore, the applicability of quality assessment methodologies in LMIC settings remains relatively unexplored.

Objective:
This rapid review aims to identify current methodologies in the literature to assess the quality of mHealth apps, understand what aspects of quality these methodologies address, determine what input has been made by authors from LMICs, and examine the applicability of such methodologies in LMICs.

Methods:
This review was registered with PROSPERO (International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews). A search of PubMed, EMBASE, Web of Science, and Scopus was performed for papers related to mHealth app quality assessment methodologies, which were published in English between 2005 and 2020. By taking a rapid review approach, a thematic and descriptive analysis of the papers was performed.

Results:
Electronic database searches identified 841 papers. After the screening process, 52 papers remained for inclusion. Of the 52 papers, 5 (10%) proposed novel methodologies that could be used to evaluate mHealth apps of diverse medical areas of interest, 8 (15%) proposed methodologies that could be used to assess apps concerned with a specific medical focus, and 39 (75%) used methodologies developed by other published authors to evaluate the quality of various groups of mHealth apps. The authors in 6% (3/52) of papers were solely affiliated to institutes in LMICs. A further 15% (8/52) of papers had at least one coauthor affiliated to an institute in an LMIC.

Conclusions:
Quality assessment of mHealth apps is complex in nature and at times subjective. Despite growing research on this topic, to date, an all-encompassing appropriate means for evaluating the quality of mHealth apps does not exist. There has been engagement with authors affiliated to institutes across LMICs; however, limited consideration of current generic methodologies for application in LMIC settings has been identified.

Application of the research electronic data capture (REDCap) system in a low- and middle income country– experiences, lessons, and challenges

The challenges of reliably collecting, storing, organizing, and analyzing research data are critical in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa where several healthcare and biomedical research organizations have limited data infrastructure. The Research Electronic Data Capture (REDCap) System has been widely used by many institutions and hospitals in the USA for data collection, entry, and management and could help solve this problem. This study reports on the experiences, challenges, and lessons learned from establishing and applying REDCap for a large US-Nigeria research partnership that includes two sites in Nigeria, (the College of Medicine of the University of Lagos (CMUL) and Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH)) and Northwestern University (NU) in Chicago, Illinois in the United States. The largest challenges to this implementation were significant technical obstacles: the lack of REDCap-trained personnel, transient electrical power supply, and slow/ intermittent internet connectivity. However, asynchronous communication and on-site hands-on collaboration between the Nigerian sites and NU led to the successful installation and configuration of REDCap to meet the needs of the Nigerian sites. An example of one lesson learned is the use of Virtual Private Network (VPN) as a solution to poor internet connectivity at one of the sites, and its adoption is underway at the other. Virtual Private Servers (VPS) or shared online hosting were also evaluated and offer alternative solutions. Installing and using REDCap in LMIC institutions for research data management is feasible; however, planning for trained personnel and addressing electrical and internet infrastructural requirements are essential to optimize its use. Building this fundamental research capacity within LMICs across Africa could substantially enhance the potential for more cross-institutional and cross-country collaboration in future research endeavors.

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

Training programme in gasless laparoscopy for rural surgeons of India (TARGET study) – Observational feasibility study

Background
Benefits of laparoscopic surgery are well recognised but uptake in rural settings of low- and middle-income countries is limited due to implementation barriers. Gasless laparoscopy has been proposed as an alternative but requires a trained rural surgical workforce to upscale. This study evaluates a feasibility of implementing a structured laparoscopic training programme for rural surgeons of North-East India.

Methods
A 3-day training programme was held at Kolkata Medical College in March 2019. Laparoscopic knowledge and Fundamentals of Laparoscopic Skills (FLS) were assessed pre and post simulation training using multiple choice questions and the McGill Inanimate System for Training and Evaluation of Laparoscopic Skills (MISTELS), respectively. Competency with an abdominal lift device was assessed using the Objective Structured Assessment of Technical Skills (OSATS) and live operating performance via the Global Operative Assessment of Laparoscopic Skills (GOALS) scores during live surgery. Costs of the training programme and qualitative feedback were evaluated.

Results
Seven rural surgeons participated. There was an improvement in knowledge acquisition (mean difference in MCQ score 5.57 (SD = 4.47)). The overall normalised mean MISTELS score for the FLS tasks improved from 386.02 (SD 110.52) pre-to 524.40 (SD 94.98) post-training (p = 0.09). Mean OSATS score was 22.4 out of 35 (SD 3.31) indicating competency with the abdominal lift device whilst a mean GOALS score of 16.42 out of 25 (SD 2.07) indicates proficiency in performing diagnostic laparoscopy using the gasless technique during live operating. Costs of the course were estimated at 354 USD for trainees and 461 USD for trainers.

Conclusion
Structured training programme in gasless laparoscopy improves overall knowledge and skills acquisition in laparoscopic surgery for rural surgeons of North-East India. It is feasible to deliver a training programme in gasless laparoscopy for rural surgeons. Larger studies are needed to assess the benefits for wider adoption in a similar context.

Adopting localised health financing models for universal health coverage in Low and middle-income countries: lessons from the National Health lnsurance Scheme in Ghana

The health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19) have recently increased awareness of the need for countries to increase fiscal space for health. Prior to these, many Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) had embraced the concept of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and have either commenced or are in the process of implementing various models of health insurance in order to provide financial access to health care to their populations. While evidence of a relationship between experimentation with UHC and increased access to and utilisation of health care in LMICs is common, there is inadequate research evidence on the specific health financing model that is most appropriate for pursuing the objectives of UHC in these settings. Drawing on a synthesis of empirical and theoretical discourses on the feasibility of UHC in LMICs, this paper argues that the journey towards UHC is not a ‘one size fits all’ process, but a long-term policy engagement that requires adaptation to the specific socio-cultural and political economy contexts of implementing countries. The study draws on the WHO’s framework for tracking progress towards UHC using the implementation of a mildly progressive pluralistic health financing model in Ghana and advocates a comprehensive discourse on the potential for LMICs to build resilient and responsive health systems to facilitate a gradual transition towards UHC.

Global Neurosurgery at the University of Toronto: Past and Present Efforts, and a Charter for the Future

Kenneth McKenzie arrived in Toronto in 1923, bringing the legacy of being the first neurosurgeon in Canada. Since then, Toronto has established itself as the hub of Canadian neurosurgery, in both volumes of cases, the strength of trainees, and research output (1). As one of the most extensive training programs in North America (2), Toronto has had ongoing international connections, chiefly through the fellowship programs within our division. The earliest instance in which Toronto demonstrated a concerted work efford in global neurosurgery was through the persistent and continued struggle of Ab Guha (1957-2009), who amongst many philanthropic activities, establish the National Neuroscience Institute in Calcutta (India), his city of birth, as his goal. Since then, interest in global neurosurgery has remained strong within our division, with multiple continued and consistent collaboration areas. These include Mark Bernstein’s travels within Africa and SouthEast Asia, expanding the reach of awake craniotomies; James Rutka’s efforts to strengthen local surgeons throughout Ukraine; George Ibrahim’s collaborations in Haiti to expand the surgical treatment of pediatric neurosurgical conditions; and Mojgan Hodaie’s work on structured curricula for neurosurgery residents. Simultaneously, Toronto neurosurgery has focused on encouraging fellows from low- and middle-income countries (LMIC’s) to join our center, in many cases funded by the first Chair in International Neurosurgery (3).

As a result of these activities, several clinical fellows who trained in Toronto and returned to bring their expertise to their local sites must be highlighted, including Grace Mutango (pediatric neurosurgery, Uganda), Nilesh Mohan (neuro-oncology, Kenya), Claire Karakezi (neuro-oncology, Rwanda), Selfy Oswari (Indonesia), and a substantial number of short-term visitors from a breadth of international sites.

Global Neurosurgery: A call to Action

Global health organizations have highlighted the inequalities that exist in health services around the globe. Although the disparities in medical care are real, the differences in surgical care are often more significant but do not receive the same attention and resources, and only as recently as 2015 was surgery established as a global health priority. That year, the Lancet Commission released their Global Surgery 2030 instrumental report on the tremendous lack of surgical care globally and the need for a focus on addressing this issue: 5 billion people do not have access to safe and affordable surgical and anesthetic care, 143 million additional surgeries are needed each year, and 33 million people face catastrophic health expenditure each year due to payments for such care (1).

When it comes to surgical subspecialties such as neurological surgery, access to care goes from being a disparity to a complete absence in some cases. Large areas of the world, especially in low and middle-income countries (LMIC’s), suffer ratios of one neurosurgeon for every 10 million people, in which case access to neurosurgical care is no longer a right but a luxury

Global Surgery indicators and pediatric hydrocephalus: a multicenter cross-country comparative study building the case for health systems strengthening

Purpose: The aim of this study is to compare specific three-institution, cross-country data that are relevant to the Global Surgery indicators and the functioning of health systems.

Methods: We retrospectively reviewed clinical and socioeconomic characteristics of pediatric patients who underwent CSF diversion surgery for hydrocephalus in three different centers: University of Tsukuba Hospital in Ibaraki, Japan (HIC), Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center in Manila, Philippines (LMIC), and the Federal Neurosurgical Center in Novosibirsk, Russia (UMIC). The outcomes of interest were timing of CSF diversion surgery and mortality. Statistical tests included descriptive statistics, Cox proportional hazards model, and logistic regression. Nation-level data were also obtained to provide the relevant socioeconomic contexts in discussing the results.

Results: In total, 159 children were included—13 from Japan, 99 from the Philippines, and 47 from the Russian Federation. The median time to surgery at the specific neurosurgical centers were 6 days in the Philippines and 1 day in both Japan and Russia. For the cohort from the Philippines, non-poor patients were more likely to receive CSF diversion surgery at an earlier time (HR=4.74, 95%CI 2.34–9.61, p<0.001). In the same center, those with infantile or post-hemorrhagic hydrocephalus (HR=3.72, 95%CI 1.70–8.15, p=0.001) were more likely to receive CSF diversion earlier compared to those with congenital hydrocephalus, and those with post-infectious (HR=0.39, 95%CI 0.22–0.70, p=0.002) or myelomeningocele-associated hydrocephalus (HR=0.46, 95%CI 0.22–0.95, p=0.037) were less likely to undergo surgery at an earlier time. For Russia, older patients were more likely to receive or require early CSF diversion (HR=1.07, 95%CI 1.01–1.14, p=0.035). EVD insertion was found to be associated with mortality (cOR 14.45, 95% CI 1.28–162.97, p = 0.031).

Conclusion: In this study, Filipino children underwent late time-interval of CSF diversion surgery and had mortality differences compared to their Japanese and Russian counterparts. These disparities may reflect on the functioning of the respective country’s health systems.