Laparoscopic experience and attitudes toward a low-cost laparoscopic system among surgeons in East, Central, and Southern Africa: a survey study

Abstract

Background

Laparoscopic surgery has become standard of care in high-income countries but is rarely accessible in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This study assessed experience with laparoscopy and attitudes toward a low-cost laparoscopic system among surgeons in sub-Saharan Africa.

Methods

A survey assessing current laparoscopic practice and feedback on a low-cost laparoscopic system was administered to attendees of the College of Surgeons of East, Central, and Southern Africa (COSECSA) Scientific Conference between December 4 and December 6, 2019 in Kampala, Uganda.

Results

Fifty-six surgeons from 14 countries participated. A majority were male (n = 46, 82%) general surgeons (n = 37, 66%) from tertiary/teaching hospitals (n = 36, 64%). For those with training in laparoscopy (n = 33, 59%), 22 (67%) reported less than 1 year of training and over half (n = 17, 52%) reported 1 month or less. Overall, a minority (n = 21, 38%) used laparoscopy in current practice, with 57% (n = 12) of those performing laparoscopy less than once per week. The most common laparoscopic surgeries performed were cholecystectomy (n = 15), diagnostic laparoscopy (n = 14), and appendectomy (n = 12). Few surgeons were performing more complex cases (n = 5). Barriers to laparoscopy included poor access to training equipment (n = 34, 61%), mentors (n = 33, 59%), laparoscopic equipment (n = 31, 55%), equipment maintenance (n = 25, 45%), access to consumable supplies (n = 21, 38%), and cost (n = 31, 55%). Fifty-two participants (93%) were interested in increasing their use of laparoscopy; the majority felt that a low-cost laparoscope (n = 52, 93%) and lift retractor for gasless laparoscopy (n = 46, 82%) would serve an unmet need in their practice.

Conclusions

While the use of laparoscopy is currently limited in COSECSA countries, there is a significant interest among surgeons to increase implementation. A low-cost, durable laparoscopic system was viewed as a potential solution to the current barriers and could improve implementation in LMICs.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Bass Connections Program at Duke University and by a Duke/Duke-NUS Pilot Project Grant.

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Correspondence to Tamara N. Fitzgerald.

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Disclosures

Dr. Mueller is an employee of Calla Health Foundation. Dr. Mueller, Mr. Gupta, and Dr. Fitzgerald have patents pending for laparoscopic technology designed for low- and middle-income countries. Dr. Farrow, Dr. Commander, Dr. Reed, Dr. Loh, and Dr. Sekabira have no conflicts of interst of financial ties to disclose.

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Appendix: Survey questions

Appendix: Survey questions

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Farrow, N.E., Commander, S.J., Reed, C.R. et al. Laparoscopic experience and attitudes toward a low-cost laparoscopic system among surgeons in East, Central, and Southern Africa: a survey study. Surg Endosc (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00464-020-08151-w

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Keywords

  • Low-cost laparoscopy
  • Global surgery
  • Gasless laparoscopy
  • Surgery in Africa