Methods for estimating economic benefits of surgical interventions in low-income and middle-income countries: a scoping review

Objectives Studies indicate that many types of surgical care are cost-effective compared with other health interventions in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs). However, global health investments to support these interventions remain limited. This study undertakes a scoping review of research on the economic impact of surgical interventions in LMICs to determine the methodologies used in measuring economic benefits.

Design The Arksey and O’Malley methodological framework for scoping reviews and the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses Extension for Scoping Reviews checklist were used to review the data systematically. Online databases were used to identify papers published between 2005 and 2020, from which we selected 19 publications that quantitatively examined the economic benefits of surgical interventions in LMICs.

Results Majority of publications (79%) reported the use of disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) to assess economic impact. In comparison, 21% used other measures, such as the value of statistical life or cost-effectiveness ratios, or no measure at all. 31% were systematic or retrospective reviews of the literature on surgical procedures in LMICs, while 69% either directly assessed economic impact in a specific area or evaluated the need for surgical procedures in LMICs. All studies reviewed related to the economic impact of surgical procedures in LMICs, with most about paediatric surgical procedures or a specific surgical specialty.

Conclusion To make informed policy decisions regarding global health investments, the economic impact must be accurately measured. Researchers employ a range of techniques to quantify the economic benefit of surgeries in LMICs, which limits understanding of overall economic value. We conclude that the literature would benefit from a careful selection of methods, incorporating age and disability weights based on the Global Burden of Disease weights, and converting DALYs to dollars using the value of statistical life approach and the human capital approach, reporting both estimates.

Feasibility of HPV-based cervical cancer screening in rural areas of developing countries with the example of the North Tongu District, Ghana

Cervical cancer gains increasing recognition as a preventable threat to women’s health, as expressed by WHO Director General Dr. Ghebreyesus in his recent call for its elimination. Developing countries carry the global burden and despite existing recommendations for secondary prevention screening programs their implementation remains a barrier. This doctoral thesis aims to evaluate the feasibility of an HPV-based cervical cancer screening approach in the North Tongu District, Ghana.
Methods This work studied (i) the methodological validity of self-sampling specimens from cervical cancer patients for HPV oncoprotein testing before its use in a screening population, (ii) the HPV prevalence among 2002 women, 18-65 years of age, in the general population of the North Tongu Disctrict, Ghana, through a cross-sectional population-based study with self-sampling collection in rural communities, and (iii) the natural history of HPV infection by longitudinal comparison of HPV type-specific persistence and clearance for 104 women over a four years’ time period. Results Using self-sampling cervicovaginal lavage specimens for HPV oncoprotein detection was methodologically feasible with 95% sensitivity for HPV16/18 positive cervical cancer. However self-sampling cervicovaginal scraping specimens did not reveal reliable HPV oncoprotein test results during the cross-sectional assessment. The high-risk HPV prevalence found among women living in the North Tongu District, Ghana was 32.3% and 27.3% among women in the WHO-recommended screening age range of 30-49 years. Sample collection in the rural communities was successful. Infection associated risk factors were (i) increasing age, (ii) increasing number of sexual partners and (iii) marital status, in particular not being married. Over the four years’ time period 6.7% of the women observed had persistent high-risk HPV infection, while 93.3% cleared their initial infection and 21.2% acquired new infections.
Discussion The high-risk HPV prevalence found among the general population and women 30-49 years is high and therefore requires careful planning and good infrastructure to triage high-risk HPV positive women and reduce the number of women needing treatment. Using HPV oncoprotein triage from the same self-collected specimen is not reliable at this point, stratification by sociodemographic factors risks stigmatization and retesting for HPV persistence necessitates a well-functioning recall system and HPV genotyping.
Conclusion The high HPV prevalence found demands substantial governmental support and investment to build well-functioning screening infrastructure that offers necessary triage and treatment options for women high-risk HPV positive with increased risk for cervical cancer. Integrating local infrastructure and capacity is promising but requires regional assessment rather than one-size-fit-all approaches.

Impact of High-Dose-Rate Brachytherapy Training via Telehealth in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

PURPOSE
Our objective was to demonstrate the efficacy of a telehealth training course on high-dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy for gynecologic cancer treatment for clinicians in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs)

METHODS
A 12-week course consisting of 16 live video sessions was offered to 10 cancer centers in the Middle East, Africa, and Nepal. A total of 46 participants joined the course, and 22 participants, on average, attended each session. Radiation oncologists and medical physicists from 11 US and international institutions prepared and provided lectures for each topic covered in the course. Confidence surveys of 15 practical competencies were administered to participants before and after the course. Competencies focused on HDR commissioning, shielding, treatment planning, radiobiology, and applicators. Pre- and post-program surveys of provider confidence, measured by 5-point Likert scale, were administered and compared.

RESULTS
Forty-six participants, including seven chief medical physicists, 16 senior medical physicists, five radiation oncologists, and three dosimetrists, representing nine countries attended education sessions. Reported confidence scores, both aggregate and paired, demonstrated increases in confidence in all 15 competencies. Post-curriculum score improvement was statistically significant (P < .05) for paired respondents in 11 of 15 domains. Absolute improvements were largest for confidence in applicator commissioning (2.3 to 3.8, P = .009), treatment planning system commissioning (2.2 to 3.9, P = .0055), and commissioning an HDR machine (2.2 to 4.0, P = .0031). Overall confidence in providing HDR brachytherapy services safely and teaching other providers increased from 3.1 to 3.8 and 3.0 to 3.5, respectively.

CONCLUSION
A 12-week, low-cost telehealth training program on HDR brachytherapy improved confidence in treatment delivery and teaching for clinicians in 10 participating LMICs.

Quality of recovery after total hip and knee arthroplasty in South Africa: a national prospective observational cohort study

Background
Encouraged by the widespread adoption of enhanced recovery protocols (ERPs) for elective total hip and knee arthroplasty (THA/TKA) in high-income countries, our nationwide multidisciplinary research group first performed a Delphi study to establish the framework for a unified ERP for THA/TKA in South Africa. The objectives of this second phase of changing practice were to document quality of patient recovery, record patient characteristics and audit standard perioperative practice.

Methods
From May to December 2018, nine South African public hospitals conducted a 10-week prospective observational study of patients undergoing THA/TKA. The primary outcome was ‘days alive and at home up to 30 days after surgery’ (DAH30) as a patient-centred measure of quality of recovery incorporating early death, hospital length of stay (LOS), discharge destination and readmission during the first 30 days after surgery. Preoperative patient characteristics and perioperative care were documented to audit practice.

Results
Twenty-one (10.1%) out of 207 enrolled patients had their surgery cancelled or postponed resulting in 186 study patients. No fatalities were recorded, median LOS was 4 (inter-quartile-range (IQR), 3–5) days and 30-day readmission rate was 3.8%, leading to a median DAH30 of 26 (25–27) days. Forty patients (21.5%) had pre-existing anaemia and 24 (12.9%) were morbidly obese. In the preoperative period, standard care involved assessment in an optimisation clinic, multidisciplinary education and full-body antiseptic wash for 67 (36.2%), 74 (40.0%) and 55 (30.1%) patients, respectively. On the first postoperative day, out-of-bed mobilisation was achieved by 69 (38.1%) patients while multimodal analgesic regimens (paracetamol and Non-Steroid-Anti-Inflammatory-Drugs) were administered to 29 patients (16.0%).

Conclusion
Quality of recovery measured by a median DAH30 of 26 days justifies performance of THA/TKA in South African public hospitals. That said, perioperative practice, including optimisation of modifiable risk factors, lacked standardisation suggesting that quality of patient care and postoperative recovery may improve with implementation of ERP principles. Notwithstanding the limited resources available, we anticipate that a change of practice for THA/TKA is feasible if ‘buy-in’ from the involved multidisciplinary units is obtained in the next phase of our nationwide ERP initiative.

Publicly funded interfacility ambulance transfers for surgical and obstetrical conditions: A cross sectional analysis in an urban middle-income country setting

Introduction
Interfacility transfers may reflect a time delay of definitive surgical care, but few studies have examined the prevalence of interfacility transfers in the urban low- and middle-income (LMIC) setting. The aim of this study was to determine the number of interfacility transfers required for surgical and obstetric conditions in an urban MIC setting to better understand access to definitive surgical care among LMIC patients.

Methods
A retrospective analysis of public interfacility transfer records was conducted from April 2015 to April 2016 in Cali, Colombia. Data were obtained from the single municipal ambulance agency providing publicly funded ambulance transfers in the city. Interfacility transfers were defined as any patient transfer between two healthcare facilities. We identified the number of transfers for patients with surgical conditions and categorized transfers based on patient ICD-9-CM codes. We compared surgical transfers from public vs. private healthcare facilities by condition type (surgical, obstetric, nonsurgical), transferring physician specialty, and transfer acuity (code blue, emergent, urgent and nonurgent) using logistic regression.

Results
31,659 patient transports occurred over the 13-month study period. 22250 (70.2%) of all transfers were interfacility transfers and 7777 (35%) of transfers were for patients with surgical conditions with an additional 2,244 (10.3%) for obstetric conditions. 49% (8660/17675) of interfacility transfers from public hospitals were for surgical and obstetric conditions vs 32% (1466/4580) for private facilities (P<0.001). The most common surgical conditions requiring interfacility transfer were fractures (1,227, 5.4%), appendicitis (913, 4.1%), wounds (871, 3.9%), abdominal pain (818, 3.6%), trauma (652, 2.9%), and acute abdomen (271, 1.2%).

Conclusion
Surgical and obstetric conditions account for nearly half of all urban interfacility ambulance transfers. The most common reasons for transfer are basic surgical conditions with public healthcare facilities transferring a greater proportion of patient with surgical conditions than private facilities. Timely access to an initial healthcare facility may not be a reliable surrogate of definitive surgical care given the substantial need for interfacility transfers.

Traumatic Brain Injury in Mumbai: A Survey of Providers along the Care Continuum

Introduction:
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) represents a significant burden of a global disease, especially in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) such as India. Efforts to curb the impact of TBI require an appreciation of local factors related to this disease and its treatment.

Methods:
Semi-structured qualitative interviews were administered to paramedics, anesthesiologists, general surgeons, and neurosurgeons in locations throughout Mumbai from April to May 2018. A thematic analysis with an iterative coding was used to analyze the data. The primary objective was to identify provider-perceived themes related to TBI care in Mumbai.

Results:
A total of 50 participants were interviewed, including 17 paramedics, 15 anesthesiologists, 9 general surgeons, and 9 neurosurgeons who were involved in caring for TBI patients. The majority of physicians interviewed discussed their experiences in public sector hospitals (82%), while 12% discussed private sector hospitals and 6% discussed both. Four major themes emerged: Workforce, equipment, financing care, and the family and public role. These themes were often discussed in the context of their effects on increasing or decreasing complications and delays. Participants developed adaptations when managing shortcomings in these thematic areas. These adaptations included teamwork during workforce shortages and resource allocation when equipment was limited among others.

Conclusions:
Workforce, equipment, financing care, and the family and public role were identified as major themes in the care for TBI in Mumbai. These thematic elements provide a framework to evaluate and improve care along the care spectrum for TBI. Similar frameworks should be adapted to local contexts in urbanizing cities in LMICs.

Implementation and evaluation of nonclinical interventions for appropriate use of cesarean section in low- and middle-income countries: protocol for a multisite hybrid effectiveness-implementation type III trial

Background: While cesarean sections (CSs) are a life-saving intervention, an increasing number are performed without medical reasons in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Unnecessary CS diverts scarce resources and thereby reduces access to healthcare for women in need. Argentina, Burkina Faso, Thailand, and Vietnam are committed to reducing unnecessary CS, but many individual and organizational factors in healthcare facilities obstruct this aim. Nonclinical interventions can overcome these barriers by helping providers improve their practices and supporting women’s decision-making regarding childbirth. Existing evidence has shown only a modest effect of single interventions on reducing CS rates, arguably because of the failure to design multifaceted interventions effectively tailored to the context. The aim of this study is to design, adapt, and test a multifaceted intervention for the appropriate use of CS in Argentina, Burkina Faso, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Methods: We designed an intervention (QUALIty DECision-making-QUALI-DEC) with four components: (1) opinion leaders at heathcare facilities to improve adherence to best practices among clinicians, (2) CS audits and feedback to help providers identify potentially avoidable CS, (3) a decision analysis tool to help women make an informed decision on the mode of birth, and (4) companionship to support women during labor. QUALI-DEC will be implemented and evaluated in 32 hospitals (8 sites per country) using a pragmatic hybrid effectiveness-implementation design to test our implementation strategy, and information regarding its impact on relevant maternal and perinatal outcomes will be gathered. The implementation strategy will involve the participation of women, healthcare professionals, and organizations and account for the local environment, needs, resources, and social factors in each country.

Discussion: There is urgent need for interventions and implementation strategies to optimize the use of CS while improving health outcomes and satisfaction in LMICs. This can only be achieved by engaging all stakeholders involved in the decision-making process surrounding birth and addressing their needs and concerns. The study will generate robust evidence about the effectiveness and the impact of this multifaceted intervention. It will also assess the acceptability and scalability of the intervention and the capacity for empowerment among women and providers alike.

Management of neuroblastoma in limited-resource settings

BACKGROUND
Neuroblastoma (NB) is a heterogeneous disease with variable outcomes among countries. Little is known about NB in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

AIM
The aim of this review was to evaluate regional management protocols and challenges in treating NB in paediatric oncology units in LMICs compared to high-income countries (HICs).

METHODS
PubMed, Global Health, Embase, SciELO, African Index Medicus and Google Scholar were searched for publications with keywords pertaining to NB, LMICs and outcomes. Only English language manuscripts and abstracts were included. A descriptive review was done, and tables illustrating the findings were constructed.

RESULTS
Limited information beyond single-institution experiences regarding NB outcomes in LMICs was available. The disease characteristics varied among countries for the following variables: sex, age at presentation, MYCN amplification, stage and outcome. LMICs were found to be burdened with a higher percentage of stage 4 and high-risk NB compared to HICs. Implementation of evidence-based treatment protocols was still a barrier to care. Many socioeconomic variables also influenced the diagnosis, management and follow-up of patients with NB.

CONCLUSION
Patients presented at a later age with more advanced disease in LMICs. Management was limited by the lack of resources and genetic studies for improved NB classification. Further research is needed to develop modified diagnostic and treatment protocols for LMICs in the face of limited resources.

Pediatric Solid Tumor Care and Multidisciplinary Tumor Boards in Low- and Middle-Income Countries in Southeast Asia

PURPOSE
Pediatric solid tumors require coordinated multidisciplinary specialist care. However, expertise and resources to conduct multidisciplinary tumor boards (MDTBs) are lacking in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). We aimed to profile the landscape of pediatric solid tumor care and practices and perceptions on MDTBs among pediatric solid tumor units (PSTUs) in Southeast Asian LMICs.

METHODS
Using online surveys, availability of specialty manpower and MDTBs among PSTUs was first determined. From the subset of PSTUs with MDTBs, one pediatric surgeon and one pediatric oncologist from each center were queried using 5-point Likert scale questions adapted from published questionnaires.

RESULTS
In 37 (80.4%) of 46 identified PSTUs, availability of pediatric-trained specialists was as follows: oncologists, 94.6%; surgeons, 91.9%; radiologists, 54.1%; pathologists, 40.5%; radiation oncologists, 29.7%; nuclear medicine physicians, 13.5%; and nurses, 81.1%. Availability of pediatric-trained surgeons, radiologists, and pathologists was significantly associated with the existence of MDTBs (P = .037, .005, and .022, respectively). Among 43 (89.6%) of 48 respondents from 24 PSTUs with MDTBs, 90.5% of oncologists reported > 50% oncology-dedicated workload versus 22.7% of surgeons. Views on benefits and barriers did not significantly differ between oncologists and surgeons. The majority agreed that MDTBs helped to improve accuracy of treatment recommendations and team competence. Complex cases, insufficient radiology and pathology preparation, and need for supplementary investigations were the top barriers.

CONCLUSION
This first known profile of pediatric solid tumor care in Southeast Asia found that availability of pediatric-trained subspecialists was a significant prerequisite for pediatric MDTBs in this region. Most PSTUs lacked pediatric-trained pathologists and radiologists. Correspondingly, gaps in radiographic and pathologic diagnoses were the most common limitations for MDTBs. Greater emphasis on holistic multidisciplinary subspecialty development is needed to advance pediatric solid tumor care in Southeast Asia.

Antibiotic Use in Low and Middle-Income Countries and the Challenges of Antimicrobial Resistance in Surgery

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a phenomenon resulting from the natural evolution of microbes. Nonetheless, human activities accelerate the pace at which microorganisms develop and spread resistance. AMR is a complex and multidimensional problem, threatening not only human and animal health, but also regional, national, and global security, and the economy. Inappropriate use of antibiotics, and poor infection prevention and control strategies are contributing to the emergence and dissemination of AMR. All healthcare providers play an important role in preventing the occurrence and spread of AMR. The organization of healthcare systems, availability of diagnostic testing and appropriate antibiotics, infection prevention and control practices, along with prescribing practices (such as over-the-counter availability of antibiotics) differs markedly between high-income countries and low and middle-income countries (LMICs). These differences may affect the implementation of antibiotic prescribing practices in these settings. The strategy to reduce the global burden of AMR includes, among other aspects, an in-depth modification of the use of existing and future antibiotics in all aspects of medical practice. The Global Alliance for Infections in Surgery has instituted an interdisciplinary working group including healthcare professionals from different countries with different backgrounds to assess the need for implementing education and increasing awareness about correct antibiotic prescribing practices across the surgical pathways. This article discusses aspects specific to LMICs, where pre-existing factors make surgeons’ compliance with best practices even more important.