RESEARCH PROJECTS

Provision of acute and elective general surgical care at a tertiary facility in the era of subspecialisation

 


BACKGROUND:
The need for an acute care and general surgical unit (ACGSU) to provide care for patients previously managed on an ad hoc basis by subspecialist units was recognised by the provincial government of the Western Cape Province, South Africa, the management of Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH) and the Department of Surgery.

OBJECTIVE:
To describe the resulting ACGSU and its functioning.

METHODS:
Data available from administrative records, patient files and operating room forms were collected in spreadsheet form for the period July 2013 – November 2016 inclusive.

RESULTS:
The ACGSU comprised a medical care team of four consultants and four to five trainees. A total of 7 571 patients were seen during the study period, the majority (66.1%) referred from the GSH Emergency Centre. Skin and soft-tissue infections formed the major disease complex. A total of 3 144 operative records were available. The most common procedures were wound debridement and inguinal hernia repairs. Trainees acted as primary surgeon in most cases. Complications (Clavien-Dindo grades I – V) were noted in 25.0% of patients.

CONCLUSIONS:
The ACGSU provides patient management that would otherwise complicate care in the subspecialist surgical units. It serves as a training ground for registrars and stands as a model for other institutions. Further research into the effect on patient care is planned.

South African surgical registrar perceptions of the research project component of training: Hope for the future?

BACKGROUND:
The Health Professions Council of South Africa requires that a research project be submitted and passed before registration as a specialist.

METHOD:
Ethics clearance was received before commencing the study. A questionnaire was developed to collect feedback from surgical registrars throughout South Africa (SA). Completed questionnaires underwent descriptive analysis using MS Excel. Fisher’s exact test and the χ2 test were used to compare perceptions of the research-experienced and research-naive groups.

RESULTS:
All medical schools in SA were sampled, and 51.5% (124/241) of surgical registrars completed the questionnaire. Challenges facing registrars included insufficient time (109/124), inadequate training in the research process (40/124), inadequate supervision (31/124), inadequate financial resources (25/124) and lack of research continuity (11/124). Of the registrars sampled, 67.7% (84/124) believed research to be a valuable component of training. An overwhelming percentage (93.5%, 116/124) proposed a dedicated research block of time as a potential solution to overcoming the challenges encountered. Further proposals included attending a course in research methodology (79/124), supervision by a faculty member with an MMed or higher postgraduate degree (73/124), and greater research exposure as an undergraduate (56/124). No statistically significant differences were found between the perceptions of the research experienced and research-naïve groups.

CONCLUSION:
Challenges facing surgical registrars in their efforts to complete their research projects were identified and solutions to these problems proposed. It is heartening that respondents have suggested solutions to the problems they encounter, and view research as an important component of their careers.

Penetrating femoral artery injuries: an urban trauma centre experience

AIM:
This study reviews a single centre experience with penetrating femoral artery injuries.

PATIENTS AND METHODS:
The records of all patients with femoral artery injuries admitted to the Trauma Centre at Groote Schuur Hospital from January 2002 to December 2012 were reviewed. These were analysed for demographics, injury mechanism, perioperative, and surgical management. Outcome was categorised by limb salvage.

RESULTS:
One-hundred and fifty-eight (158) patients with femoral artery injuries were identified. There were 144 (91%) men and 14 women with a mean age of 28 years. Ninety-five percent (N = 150) sustained penetrating injuries. The superficial femoral artery (87%) was most commonly injured. The most common type of arterial injury was a laceration (39%) and transection (37%). Eighty-one (51%) patients had a primary repair, 53 (33%) patients had a vein interposition graft, and 16 patients (10%) had a prosthetic graft. There were 78 (51%) concomitant venous injuries, 11 were repaired, and 1 vein patch repair was performed (15.4%). There were 4 (2.5%) primary amputations and 10 (6.5%) secondary amputations. There were no deaths. Statistically significant risk factors for secondary amputation derived by univariate analysis were: ischaemia (p < 0.0001), neurological deficit due to ischemia (p < 0.001), temporary vascular shunting (p < 0.001), and the absence of a palpable pulse post-repair (p < 0.01).

CONCLUSION:
This study has a primary and secondary amputation rate of 2.5 and 6.5%, respectively. There was greater than 90% limb salvage rate. The outcome of threatened limbs due to femoral artery injury is good, provided that there is no delay to surgery.

An analysis of the inequalities between the public and private sector in South Africa

BACKGROUND:
The full extent of the global burden of surgical disease is largely unknown, however, the scope of the problem is thought to be large. Despite the substantial burden of surgical disease, surgical services are inaccessible to many of those who need them most. There are disparities between public and private sectors in South Africa, which compounds inequitable access to surgical care.

METHOD:
This study involved a descriptive analysis of surgical resources and included the total number of hospitals, of hospital beds, the number of surgical beds, the number of general surgeons (specialist and non-specialist), and the number of functional operating theatres in South Africa. A comparison was performed between the public and private sectors. Hospitals were contacted during the period from the 1st October 2014 until the 31st of December 2014.

RESULTS:
Surgical resources were concentrated in metropolitan areas of urban provinces. There were striking differences between the public and private sectors, where private resources were comparable to those available in high income countries (HICs).

CONCLUSION:
Improving access to surgical services in lower middle income countries (LMICs) requires addressing gaps between the public and private sector regarding infrastructure, personnel, as well as equipment. South Africa is unique in that although it is classified as an upper middle income country (UMIC), is comprises of two sectors; a public sector which has resources similar to other LMICs, and a private sector which has resources similar to HICs. These data identified disparities between geographic regions which may be contributing to ongoing inequity in South Africa, and by doing so allows for evidence-based planning towards improving surgical infrastructure and workforce.

A retrospective evaluation of the Modified Alvarado Score for the diagnosis of acute appendicitis in HIV-infected patients

BACKGROUND:
The aim of this study was to evaluate and compare the diagnostic value of a Modified Alvarado Score (MAS) ≥7 for acute appendicitis in both Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)-negative (HIVneg) and positive (HIVpos) patientcohorts.

METHODS:
This retrospective study included all HIV-tested patients undergoing appendectomy at a regional hospital from March 2010 to March 2011. The MAS was calculated for all patients, as well as for the HIVneg and HIVpos groups separately. Two subgroups were considered for each of these: MAS ≥7 (high likelihood of appendicitis) and MAS <7 (low likelihood of appendicitis). These subgroups were then analysed against histopathological findings of the resected appendix. MAS specificities and sensitivities were determined by comparing Receiver Operator Characteristic (ROC) curves for the various scores.

RESULTS:
The study comprised 133 patients. Eighty-six (65%) were men and the median age was 20 years (range 4-64); 18 patients (14%) were HIVpos. Appendicitis was confirmed histologically in 113 patients, 100 in the HIVneg group and 13 in the HIVpos group. Specificity and sensitivity of a MAS ≥7 for HIVneg patients was 73 and 85% respectively. Based on the ROC curves, HIVpos patients only showed similar sensitivities (69%) and specificities (80%) at a MAS ≥8.

CONCLUSION:
A MAS ≥7 is a reliable predictor of acute appendicitis in HIVneg patients. In HIVpos patients, the MAS threshold required to accurately predict appendicitis is 8. The use of a MAS ≥7 in this group of patients will result in unnecessary surgical intervention