Epilepsy surgery in Panama: Establishment of a successful hybrid program as a model for small middle-income countries.
OBJECTIVE:The majority of the 65 million people worldwide with epilepsy live in low- and middle-income countries. Many of these countries have inadequate resources to serve the large patient population affected by epilepsy. Panama is a middle-income country that currently has only 2 facilities that can provide basic epilepsy services and no epilepsy surgery services. To address this need, a group of Panamanian physicians partnered with U.S. epilepsy health care providers to test a hybrid epilepsy surgery program, combining resources and expertise. METHODS:From 2011 to 2017, a multidisciplinary team of neurologists, neurosurgeons, and an electroencephalography (EEG) technician from the United States traveled to Panama 6 times and, in collaboration with the local team, performed surgical procedures for intractable epilepsy at the national children's hospital. Resective surgeries were performed with intraoperative electrocorticography and/or implantation of subdural and depth electrodes and extra-operative monitoring. Cost was calculated using Panama government data. RESULTS:Twenty-seven children with intractable epilepsy were surgically treated. Fifteen children are seizure-free (Engle class I), 11 children are Engel II, and one child is Engel III. No major morbidity or mortality occurred, with only one postoperative infection. The average cost of treatment was calculated at $9850 per patient. SIGNIFICANCE:This program is a model for creating a multinational and multi-institutional collaboration to provide surgical epilepsy treatment in a middle-income country without an adequate infrastructure. To be successful, this collaboration needed to address medical, technical, and cultural challenges. This partnership helps to alleviate some of the present need for surgical epilepsy services while laying the groundwork for the development of a future local independent epilepsy surgery program.
School of Medicine