The State of Surgical Task Sharing for Inguinal Hernia Repair in Limited-Resource Countries.


Creighton University School of Medicine, 2500 California Plaza, Omaha, NE, 68178, USA. [Email]


BACKGROUND : In limited-resource countries, the morbidity and mortality related to inguinal hernias is unacceptably high. This review addresses the issue by identifying capacity-building education of non-surgeons performing inguinal hernia repairs in developing countries and analyzing the outcomes.
METHODS : PubMed was searched and included are studies that reported on task sharing and surgical outcomes for inguinal hernia surgery. Educational methods with quantitative and qualitative effects of the capacity-building methods have been recorded. Excluded were papers without records of outcome data.
RESULTS : Seven studies from African countries reported 14,108 elective inguinal hernia repairs performed by 230 non-surgeons with a mortality rate of 0.36%. Complications were reported in 4 of the 7 studies with a morbidity rate of 14.2%. Two studies reported on follow-up: one with no recurrences in 408 patients at 7.4 months and the other one with 0.9% recurrences in 119 patients at 12 months. Direct comparison of outcomes from trained non-surgeons to surgeons or surgically trained medical doctors is limited but suggests no difference in outcomes. Quantitative capacity-building effects include increase in surgical workforce, case volume, elective procedures, mesh utilization, and decreased referrals to higher level of care institutions. Qualitative capacity-building effects include feasibility of prospective research in limited-resource settings, improved access to surgical care, and change in practice pattern of local physicians after training for mesh repair.
CONCLUSIONS : Systematic training of non-surgeons in inguinal hernia repair is potentially a high-impact capacity-building strategy. High-risk patients should be referred to a fully trained surgeon whenever possible. Randomized study designs and long-term outcomes beyond 1 year are needed.

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