Scielo RSS <![CDATA[South African Journal of Surgery]]> vol. 51 num. 3 lang. en <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> <![CDATA[<b>The humanity of it all: Exposing love, life, work and stupidity. 4th Charles F M Saint Lecture, delivered at the 28th ASSA Biennial Congress, East London, South Africa, 14 March 2013</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>A concept paper</b>: <b>Using the outcomes of common surgical conditions as quality metrics to benchmark district surgical services in South Africa as part of a systematic quality improvement programme</b>]]> The fourth, fifth and sixth Millennium Development Goals relate directly to improving global healthcare and health outcomes. The focus is to improve global health outcomes by reducing maternal and childhood mortality and the burden of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Specific targets and timeframes have been set for these diseases. There is, however, no specific mention of surgically treated diseases in these goals, reflecting a bias that is slowly changing with emerging consensus that surgical care is an integral part of primary healthcare systems in the developing world. The disparities between the developed and developing world in terms of wealth and social indicators are reflected in disparities in access to surgical care. Health administrators must develop plans and strategies to reduce these disparities. However, any strategic plan that addresses deficits in healthcare must have a system of metrics, which benchmark the current quality of care so that specific improvement targets may be set. This concept paper outlines the role of surgical services in a primary healthcare system, highlights the ongoing disparities in access to surgical care and outcomes of surgical care, discusses the importance of a systems-based approach to healthcare and quality improvement, and reviews the current state of surgical care at district hospitals in South Africa. Finally, it proposes that the results from a recently published study on acute appendicitis, as well as data from a number of other common surgical conditions, can provide measurable outcomes across a healthcare system and so act as an indicator for judging improvements in surgical care. This would provide a framework for the introduction of collection of these outcomes as a routine epidemiological health policy tool. <![CDATA[<b>Base deficit as an early marker of coagulopathy in trauma</b>]]> BACKGROUND: The acute coagulopathy of trauma is associated with hypoperfusion, metabolic acidosis and an increased mortality rate. Biochemical markers of hypoperfusion, namely base deficit (BD) and lactate, are commonly used to assess the degree of hypoperfusion. Early identification of hypoperfusion and acidosis using BD and lactate may help predict the development of coagulopathy in trauma patients and direct therapy. OBJECTIVES: To identify whether a correlation exists between BD, lactate, injury severity, early-onset coagulopathy and mortality. METHODS: A retrospective chart analysis was undertaken of patients transferred directly from scene to the level I trauma unit at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital, Durban, South Africa, from 2007 to 2008. Patients with evidence of hypoperfusion were selected. Hypoperfusion was defined as a base deficit &gt;-2 and coagulopathy as an International Normalized Ratio (INR) of &gt;1.2. BD, lactate, chloride, temperature, Injury Severity Score (ISS), INR and mortality were recorded in this cohort. Student's t-test and Fisher's exact test were used for continuous and categorical variables, respectively. Correlation curves were used to determine the degree of association between the variables BD, lactate and ISS with respect to the INR. A p-value of <0.05 was considered statistically significant. RESULTS: Of the 28 patients, males (n=18) accounted for 64.3% of admissions. The mean age was 31 years (range 1 - 75 years, median 30 years). The mechanism of injury was penetrating trauma in 5 cases (17.9%) and blunt trauma in 23 (82.1%). The median ISS was 24 (range 4 - 59). In 16 patients (57.1%) the INR was within normal limits, but in 12 (42.9%) it was over 1.2. There was a significant correlation between BD, ISS and INR (r=0.393; p=0.019 and r=0.565, respectively; p<0.001). Lactate showed a weak and non-significant association with the INR (r=0.232; p=0.18). There were a total of 12 deaths (42.8%) in this cohort of patients with biochemical evidence of hypoperfusion. There was a significant increase in mortality in patients with evidence of hypoperfusion and an elevated INR (75.0% v. 18.7%; p=0.006). CONCLUSION: BD but not lactate correlates with the development of the coagulopathy of trauma. The ISS showed a significant correlation with coagulation disturbances, and the combination of hypoperfusion and coagulopathy was associated with a significant increase in mortality. <![CDATA[<b>Open globe injuries in patients seen at Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa</b>]]> BACKGROUND: Ocular trauma accounts for a significant proportion of admissions to the eye ward at Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH), Cape Town, South Africa. There are few published studies on ocular trauma in South Africa. Some studies elsewhere have shown an association between open globe injuries and recent alcohol use, but no such study has been conducted in this country. BJECTIVES: To identify causes of and outcomes after open globe injuries at GSH, with emphasis on the association between assault and alcohol use as well as the relationship, if any, between victim and assailant. METHODS: This was a prospective case series of all adult patients admitted to GSH with open globe injuries over a 2-year period. Ocular findings were recorded with a minimum 3-month follow-up period. RESULTS: There were 249 open globe injuries. Assault had occurred in 183 (73.5%), and 66 (26.5%) were accidental. In the assault-related cases, 95 (51.9%) of the assailants were reported to have used alcohol and 121 (66.1%) of the victims admitted to alcohol use prior to the assault. There was a statistically significant relationship between ethanol use and type of injury, 71.4% of assault cases overall being associated with ethanol use. In assault-related cases, the assailant was known to the victim in 113 cases (61.7%). Of the patients, 78.7% had a final acuity of <3/60 in the traumatised eye. CONCLUSION: A significant number of open globe injuries due to assault are related to ethanol use and occur when the victim and assailant are known to each other. Such injuries are likely to have a poor prognosis. <![CDATA[<b>Firearm injuries to children in Cape Town, South Africa</b>: <b>Impact of the 2004 Firearms Control Act</b>]]> BACKGROUND: Before the introduction of the Firearms Control Act in 2004, the epidemiology of childhood firearm injuries from 1991 to 2001 in Cape Town, South Africa, was reported. This study analyses current data as a comparator to assess the impact of the Act. METHODS: Firearm injuries seen at Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital, Cape Town, from 2001 to 2010 were retrospectively reviewed. Data recorded included the patients' folder numbers, gender, date of birth, age, date of presentation, date discharged and inpatient stay, firearm type, number of shots, circumstances, injury sites, injury type, treatment, resulting morbidities and survival. These data were compared with the 1991 - 2001 data. RESULTS: One hundred and sixty-three children presented with firearm injuries during this period. The results showed a decrease in incidence from 2001 to 2010. Older children and males had a higher incidence than younger children and females. Most injuries were to an extremity and were unintentional. Mortality had reduced significantly from the previous study (6% to 2.6%), as did the total number of inpatient days (1 063 to 617). CONCLUSIONS: Compared with the earlier study, this study showed a significant reduction in the number of children presenting with a firearm-related injury. Mortality and inpatient stay were also significantly reduced. The study shows the impact that the Firearms Control Act has had in terms of paediatric firearm-related injury and provides evidence that the medical profession can play an important role in reducing violence. <![CDATA[<b>The use of diverting colostomies in paediatric peri-anal burns</b>: <b>Experience in 45 patients</b>]]> BACKGROUND: Peri-anal burns are common in children. Continual exposure to enteric organisms may lead to a contaminated burn wound, invasive sepsis, graft loss, scar contracture, anal and urinary malfunction, and delayed discharge from hospital. Use of a temporary diverting colostomy has been advocated to reduce complications. OBJECTIVES: To review the incidence, indications, methods, bacteriology, therapeutic effects and outcomes of colostomy for peri-anal burns. METHODS: A prospective study of children with peri-anal burns and stomas over a 17-year period. Prophylactic or therapeutic faecal diversion was achieved by temporary, divided sigmoid end-colostomy with Hartmann's closure of the distal end. RESULTS: Between 1995 and 2012, 45 children with peri-anal burns received a colostomy. The mean total body surface area burned was 35% (range 3 - 80%). There were 28 flame burns, 16 fluid burns and 1 contact burn. Prophylactic colostomies were performed in 29 children, on average on day 6 after admission, and therapeutic colostomies to counteract deep wound infection and septicaemia in 16 patients, on average on day 24. In all but 2 cases there was a marked improvement in clinical appearance, graft take and healing. The bacterial profile changed from gut-derived organisms to Pseudomonas aeruginosa or no pathogens. Complications occurred in 5 patients (11.1%). Three stomas required manual reduction. Two children died of established septic shock, compounded by stomal dehiscence in 1 case. Reversal of the colostomy was performed on average at 4 months. CONCLUSION: Diverting colostomy has therapeutic advantages in a select group of paediatric burns patients in whom continual faecal soiling poses a threat to both graft and life. <![CDATA[<b>The scope of plastic surgery</b>]]> OBJECTIVE: To ascertain junior doctors' awareness of the scope of public-sector plastic surgery practice. METHOD: A 12-part questionnaire asked the respondents to name, from a list, the specialty they felt was best equipped to manage patients with specific conditions. RESULTS: The data demonstrate that perception of the scope of plastic and reconstructive surgery is grossly limited. Although plastic surgeons were associated with reconstructive procedures, they were not necessarily identified as primary surgeons for procedures that they commonly perform. A significant number of respondents believed that plastic surgeons are seldom the first line of referral, and are more involved in cases with aesthetic rather than functional sequelae. DISCUSSION: These findings should be regarded with concern, particularly in light of the fact that these doctors will be responsible for carrying the burden of primary care delivery in South Africa and for referrals to secondary and tertiary levels of care. The study motivates for increased exposure to plastic surgery during undergraduate and postgraduate medical training. <![CDATA[<b>A paediatric case of AAST grade IV duodenal injury with application of damage control surgery</b>]]> Isolated severe blunt duodenal injuries are rare. We present an American Association for the Surgery of Trauma grade IV duodenal injury in a paediatric patient. The strategic use of damage control surgical principles, involving an initial abbreviated laparotomy followed by a delayed reconstruction, resulted in a successful outcome.