Research is core to the Surgeons OverSeas mission. The following publications detail important findings that support our work providing access to surgery in the developing world.


Estimating the prevalence of urinary and fecal incontinence in a nationally representative survey in Sierra Leone.

Apr 2, 2014

The Global Burden of Disease study estimates that 1.8 million disability-adjusted life years are due to obstructed labor worldwide, with 90% concentrated in Africa and Southeast Asia [1]. Obstetric fistulas refer to abnormal openings, as a result of prolonged labor, between the bladder and vagina (vesicovaginal fistula) or the rectum and vagina (rectovaginal fistula) leading to chronic urinary or fecal incontinence. There is no true estimate for the prevalence of fistulas in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), but guesses of 3–4 million unrepaired cases in LMICs [2].   View Research Paper

Prevalence of Surgical Conditions in Individuals Aged More Than 50 Years: A Cluster-Based Household Survey in Sierra Leone.

May 5, 2014

BACKGROUND: With the demographic transition disproportionately affecting developing nations, the healthcare burden associated with the elderly is likely to be compounded by poor baseline surgical capacity in these settings. We sought to assess the prevalence of surgical disease and disability in the elderly population of Sierra Leone to guide future development strategies. METHODS: A cluster randomized, cross-sectional household survey was carried out countrywide in Sierra Leone from January 9th to February 3rd 2012. Using a standardized questionnaire, household member demographics, deaths occurring during the previous 12 months, and presence of any current surgical condition were elucidated. A retrospective analysis of individuals aged 50 and over was performed. RESULTS: The survey included 1,843 households with a total of 3,645 respondents. Of these, 13.6 % (496/3,645) were aged over 50 years. Of the elderly individuals in our sample, 301 (60.7 %) reported a current surgical condition. Of current surgical disease identified among elderly individuals (n = 530), 349 (65.8 %) described it as disabling, and 223 (42.1 %) sought help from traditional medicine practitioners. Women (odds ratio [OR] 0.60; 95 % confidence interval [CI] 0.40-0.90) and individuals living in urban settings (OR 0.44, 95 % CI 0.26-0.75) were less likely to report a current surgical problem. Of the 230 elderly deaths in the previous year, 83 (36.1 %) reported a surgical condition in the week prior. CONCLUSIONS: The unmet burden of surgical disease is prevalent in the elderly in low-resource settings. This patient population is expected to grow significantly in the coming years, and more resources should be allocated to address their surgical needs. View Research Paper

Burns in Sierra Leone: A population-based assessment.

Apr 22, 2014

PURPOSE: Burns remain disproportionately prevalent in developing countries. This study aims to describe the epidemiology of burns in Sierra Leone to serve as a baseline for future programs. METHODS: A cluster randomized, cross-sectional, countrywide survey was conducted in 2012 in Sierra Leone. With a standardized questionnaire demographics and deaths during the previous 12 months of household members were assessed with the household representative. Thereafter, 2 randomly selected household members were interviewed, elucidating whether participants had ever had a burn in six body regions and determining burn mechanisms and patterns of health care seeking behavior. RESULTS: This study included 1843 households and 3645 individuals. 3.98% (145/3645) of individuals reported at least one burn-injury. The highest proportions of burns were reported in the age groups 0-4 years old (23/426, 5.4%) and 5-14 years old (37/887, 4.17%). The majority of burns (129/145, 89.0%) were caused by a hot liquid/object and the upper, extremities were the most commonly burned body regions, with 36% (53/145) of cases. 21% (30/145) of individuals with burns sought care from a traditional healer. CONCLUSIONS: Burns are highly prevalent in Sierra Leone. Further research and resources should be allocated to the care and prevention of thermal injuries. View Research Paper

Individual and community perceptions of surgical care in Sierra Leone

Nov 3, 2013

In January 2012 in Western Area Province of Sierra Leone, six Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) were conducted. The FDGs consisted of three male only and three female only groups in an urban, a slum and a rural setting. Researchers investigated a wide range of topics including definitions of surgery, types of surgical procedures, trust, quality of care, human resources, post-operative care, permission-seeking and traditional beliefs. View Research Paper

An estimate of hernia prevalence in Sierra Leone from a nationwide community survey

Nov 16, 2013

A large number of unrepaired inguinal hernias is expected in sub-Saharan Africa where late presentation often results in incarceration, strangulation, or giant scrotal hernias. However, no representative population-based data are available to quantify the prevalence of hernias. We present data on groin masses in Sierra Leone to estimate prevalence, barriers to care, and associated disability. View Research Paper

Treatment of cancer in sub-Saharan Africa

Apr 14, 2013

Cancer is rapidly becoming a public health crisis in low-income and middle-income countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, patients often present with advanced disease. Little health-care infrastructure exists, and few personnel are available for the care of patients. Surgeons are often central to cancer care in the region, since they can be the only physician a patient sees for diagnosis, treatment (including chemotherapy), and palliative care. Poor access to surgical care is a major impediment to cancer care in sub-Saharan Africa. Additional obstacles include the cost of oncological care, poor infrastructure, and the scarcity of medical oncologists, pathologists, radiation oncologists, and other health-care workers who are needed for cancer care. We describe treatment options for patients with cancer in sub-Saharan Africa, with a focus on the role of surgery in relation to medical and radiation oncology, and argue that surgery must be included in public health efforts to improve cancer care in the region. View Research Paper

The benefits of international rotations to resource-limited settings for U.S. surgery residents

Dec 26, 2012

U.S. surgery residents increasingly are interested in international experiences. Recently, the Residency Review Committee approved international surgery rotations for credit toward graduation. Despite this growing interest, few U.S. surgery residency programs offer formal international rotations. We aimed to present the benefits of international surgery rotations and how these rotations contribute to the attainment of the 6 Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) competencies. View Research Paper

Ratio of Cesarean Deliveries to Total Operations and Surgeon Nationality Are Potential Proxies for Surgical Capacity in Central Haiti

Sep 8, 2012

The World Health Organization has a standardized tool to assess surgical capacity in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), but it is often resource- and time-intensive. There currently exists no simple, evidence-based measure of surgical capacity in these settings. The proportion of cesarean deliveries in regard to the total operations (C/O ratio) has been suggested as a way to assess quickly the capacity for emergency and essential surgery in LMICs. This ratio has been estimated to be between 23.3 and 41.5 % in LMICs, but the tool's utility has not been replicated. View Research Paper