BMC surgery 2017 12 0117(1) 121 doi 10.1186/s12893-017-0323-x
Management of emergency general surgical conditions remains a challenge in rural sub-Saharan Africa due to issues such as insufficient human capacity and infrastructure. This study describes the burden of emergency general surgical conditions and the ability to provide care for these conditions at three rural district hospitals in Rwanda.
This retrospective cross-sectional study included all patients presenting to Butaro, Kirehe and Rwinkwavu District Hospitals between January 1st 2015 and December 31st 2015 with emergency general surgical conditions, defined as non-traumatic, non-obstetric acute care surgical conditions. We describe patient demographics, clinical characteristics, management and outcomes.
In 2015, 356 patients presented with emergency general surgical conditions. The majority were male (57.2%) and adults aged 15-60 years (54.5%). The most common diagnostic group was soft tissue infections (71.6%), followed by acute abdominal conditions (14.3%). The median length of symptoms prior to diagnosis differed significantly by diagnosis type (p < 0.001), with the shortest being urological emergencies at 1.5 days (interquartile range (IQR):1, 6) and the longest being complicated hernia at 17.5 days (IQR: 1, 208). Of all patients, 54% were operated on at the district hospital, either by a general surgeon or general practitioner. Patients were more likely to receive surgery if they presented to a hospital with a general surgeon compared to a hospital with only general practitioners (75% vs 43%, p < 0.001). In addition, the general surgeon was more likely to treat patients with complex diagnoses such as acute abdominal conditions (33.3% vs 4.1%, p < 0.001) compared to general practitioners. For patients who received surgery, 73.3% had no postoperative complications and 3.2% died. CONCLUSION
While acute abdominal conditions are often considered the most common emergency general surgical condition in sub-Saharan Africa, soft tissue infections were the most common in our setting. This could represent a true difference in epidemiology in rural settings compared to referral facilities in urban settings. Patients were more likely to receive an operation in a hospital with a general surgeon as opposed to a general practitioner. This provides evidence to support increasing the surgical workforce in district hospitals in order to increase surgical availability for patients.