Otolaryngology burden of disease and surgical case triage in resource-limited settings: An example from Cameroon

Laryngoscope Investig Otolaryngol. 2021 Jan 31;6(2):177-182. doi: 10.1002/lio2.522. eCollection 2021 Apr.


Objectives: Otolaryngology services worldwide faced an unprecedented demand for case triage during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. We propose and apply a novel case-leveling schema in a resource-limited setting. Describing the surgical burden of otolaryngologic disease in this setting may critically inform resource planning to address global surgical disparities.

Methods: This is a retrospective study of otolaryngology cases performed over a 28-month period (1/2016-4/2018) at a hospital in rural Cameroon. Case details were collated and categorized as a surrogate measure of otolaryngologic disease in resource-limited settings. A case-levelling schema based on temporal urgency and anticipated impact on health was proposed and applied.

Results: 1277 cases took place during the study. The largest proportion of cases were head and neck (517, 40%), followed by pediatrics (316, 25%). A four-tiered leveling system was generated: level 1 cases were immediately life-saving; level 2 cases were expected to result in a significant return to functions of daily living, or would prevent future death from cancer; level 3 cases aimed to significantly improve quality of life; level 4 cases were purely elective. Upon application of the schema, most cases were deemed to be level 2 (661, 52%).

Conclusion: We use our experience in a resource-limited setting to generate and apply a novel schema to be used for otolaryngology case triage in services facing unprecedented states of emergency such as the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. This is the first study describing the surgical otolaryngologic disease burden in a resource-limited setting, data which may be used for future resource allocation.

Level of evidence: 4.

Keywords: clinical practice guidelines; healthy policy; training program.