Neurosurgical care

An estimated 5 billion people worldwide lack access to basic surgical care. In particular, the vast majority of low-income country and middle-income country (LMICs) currently struggle to provide adequate neurosurgical services. Significant barriers exist, including limited access to trained medical, nursing, and allied health staff; lack of equipment; and availability of services at a reasonable distance and at reasonable cost to patients. An accurate assessment of current neurosurgical capacity in LIMCs is an essential first step in tackling this deficit.

Objective: To quantify the neurosurgical operational capacity and assess access to neurosurgical services in LMICs, by taking into account the location of the workforce and services.

Methods: A total of 141 LMICs were contacted and asked to report the number of currently practicing neurosurgeons, access to computed tomographic and magnetic resonance imaging, and availability of neurosurgical equipment (microscope, endoscope, bipolar diathermy, high-speed neurosurgical drill). A proposed World Federation of Neurosurgeons classification was used to stratify cities based on the level of neurosurgical care that could be provided. The data were geocoded and analyzed in Redivis (Redivis Inc.) to assess the percentage of the population covered within a 2-hour travel time of a city offering differing levels of neurosurgical care.

Results: 68 countries provided complete data (response rate, 48.2%). Eleven countries reported having no practicing neurosurgeons. The average percentage of the population with access to neurosurgical services within a 2-hour window is 25.26% in sub-Saharan Africa, 62.3% in Latin America and the Caribbean, 29.64% in East Asia and the Pacific, 52.83% in South Asia, 79.65% in the Middle East and North Africa, and 93.3% in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

There are several challenges to the provision of adequate neurosurgical care in low-resource settings. This study used mapping techniques to determine the current global neurosurgical workforce capacity and distribution. We have used our findings to identify areas for improvement. These include increasing and improving neurosurgical training programs worldwide, recruiting students and young physicians into the field, and retaining existing neurosurgeons within their home 1).

Punchak M, Mukhopadhyay S, Sachdev S, Hung YC, Peeters S, Rattani A, Dewan M, Johnson WD, Park KB. Neurosurgical Care: Availability and Access in Low-Income and Middle-Income Countries. World Neurosurg. 2018 Apr;112:e240-e254. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2018.01.029. Epub 2018 Jan 8. PMID: 29325943.
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