The shifting burden of neurosurgical disease: Vietnam and the middle-income nations

Neurosurg Focus. 2018 Oct;45(4):E12. doi: 10.3171/2018.7.FOCUS18297.


Objective: The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) is an international collaboration and the largest comprehensive investigation of global health disease burden ever conducted. It has been particularly insightful for understanding disease demographics in middle-income nations undergoing rapid development, such as Vietnam, where 6 of the top 10 causes of death are relevant to the neurosurgeon. The burden of stroke-the number one cause of death in Vietnam-is particularly impressive. Likewise, road injuries, with a disproportionate rate of traumatic brain injury, continue to increase in Vietnam following economic development. Low-back and neck pain is the number one cause of disability. Simultaneously, more patients have access to care, and healthcare spending is increased.

Methods: It is imperative that neurosurgical capital and infrastructure keep pace with Vietnam's growth. The authors searched the existing literature for assessments of neurosurgical infrastructure or initiatives to address neurosurgical disease burden. Using GBD data, the authors also abstracted data for death by cause and prevalence of years of life lost due to disability (YLD) for common neurosurgical pathologies for Vietnam and comparison nations.

Results: Interventions aimed at primary prevention of risk factors for neurosurgical disease and focused on the transference of self-sustainable technical skills were found to be analogous to those that have been successful in other regions. Efforts toward stroke prevention have been focused on causal risk factors. Multiple investigators have found that interventions aimed at increasing helmet use were successful in preventing traumatic brain injury. Government-led reforms and equipment donation programs have improved technical capacity. Nevertheless, Vietnam lags behind other nations in neurosurgeons per capita; cause-attributable death and YLD attributable to neurosurgical disease are considerably higher in Vietnam and middle-income nations compared to both lower-income nations and upper-income nations.

Conclusions: More than two-thirds of deaths attributable to neurosurgical pathologies in Vietnam and other middle-income nations were due to stroke, and one-fifth of both cause-attributable death and YLD was associated with neurosurgical pathologies. Vietnam and other middle-income nations continue to assume a global burden of disease profile that ever more closely resembles that of developed nations, with particular cerebrovascular, neurotrauma, and spinal disease burdens, leading to exponentially increased demand for neurosurgeons that threatens to outpace the training of neurosurgeons.

Keywords: COPD = chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; DOHA = Direction of Healthcare Activities; GBD = Global Burden of Disease; GDP = gross domestic product; Global Burden of Disease; UI = uncertainty interval; Vietnam; YLD = years of life lost due to disability; back pain; neurosurgery; stroke; traumatic brain injury.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Global Burden of Disease*
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Nervous System Diseases / mortality
  • Stroke / epidemiology
  • Stroke / mortality
  • Vietnam / epidemiology