The challenges of cardiothoracic surgery practice in Nigeria: a 12 years institutional experience

Bode Falase, Michael Sanusi, Adeola Animasahun, Ogadinma Mgbajah, Adetinuwe Majekodunmi, Onyekwelu Nzewi, Jonathan Nwiloh, David Oke


Background: Although the specialty of cardiothoracic surgery has been practiced in Nigeria for many years, open heart surgery (OHS) has only in the last decade become relatively more frequent, mainly through visiting foreign cardiac surgical teams. At this early phase of development it is faced with multiple challenges, especially financing and local skilled manpower for which solutions have to be identified in order to ensure sustainability and future growth. This study is aimed at highlighting these obstacles to growth of cardiothoracic surgery based on our own institutional experience at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) and the current status of OHS activity in other cardiothoracic centers in Nigeria.
Methods: Prospectively acquired data from our center from March 2004 to December 2015 was reviewed. A telephone survey was also conducted with all other institutions in Nigeria performing cardiac surgery.
Results: During the study period 1,520 patients underwent various procedures with a mean age of 37±22.4 years and 813 (53.5%) were males. There were 450 major procedures (29.6%), 889 minor procedures (58.5%) and 181 endoscopic procedures (11.9%). The top ten clinical diagnoses were empyema thoracis (17.5%), malignant pleural effusion (14.7%), chest trauma (12%), hemodialysis access (6.1%), bradyarrhythmia (5.3%), aerodigestive foreign bodies (4.1%), vascular injury (3.9%), pericardial disease (3.8%), lung cancer (3.6%) and congenital heart disease (3.4%). The range of procedures was chest tube insertion (41.6%), endoscopy (11.9%), lung procedures (7%), arterio-venous fistula (6.1%), pacemaker implantation (5.3%), vascular repair (4.4%), OHS (3.4%), esophageal procedures (2.6%), chest wall surgery (2%), video assisted thoracic surgery (2%), closed heart surgery (1.6%), diaphragmatic procedures (1.6%) and thymectomy (1%). Survey of 15 centers in Nigeria with cardiac surgery activity showed a total of 496 OHS cases between 1974 and 2016, with 330 cases (66.5%) done between 2012 and 2016.
Conclusions: Infections, malignancy and trauma currently account for the bulk of cardiothoracic surgery practice in Nigeria, with surgical activity showing a predominance of minor procedures and comparatively minimal OHS activities. Identified challenges to increasing cardiothoracic surgical activity were limitations in manpower development, infrastructure, laboratory support, local availability of consumables, cost of surgery, funding mechanisms for surgery, multiple models for development of cardiac surgery, decentralization of efforts and lack of outcome data. Data collection and reporting of results must be started to enable development of more evidence-based practice.