The purpose of this report was to describe an international collaboration model to facilitate the surgical treatment of children with epilepsy in Vietnam.
This model uses three complementary methods to achieve a meaningful expansion in epilepsy surgery capacity: US-based providers visiting Hanoi, Vietnam; Vietnamese providers visiting the US; and ongoing telecollaboration, including case review and real-time mentorship using internet-based communication platforms.
Introductions took place during a US neurosurgeon’s visit to Vietnam in 2014. Given the Vietnamese surgeon’s expertise in intraventricular tumor surgery, the focus of the initial visit was corpus callosotomy. After two operations performed jointly, the Vietnamese surgeon went on to perform 10 more callosotomy procedures in the ensuing 6 months with excellent results. The collaborative work grew and matured in 2016–2017, with 40 pediatric epilepsy surgeries performed from 2015 through 2017. Because pediatric epilepsy care requires far more than neurosurgery, teams traveling to Vietnam included a pediatric neurologist and an electroencephalography (EEG) technologist. Also, in 2016–2017, a neurosurgeon, two neurologists, and an EEG nurse from Vietnam completed 2- to 3-month fellowships at Children’s of Alabama (COA) in the US. These experiences improved EEG capabilities and facilitated the development of intraoperative electrocorticography (ECoG), making nonlesional epilepsy treatment more feasible. The final component has been ongoing, i.e., regular communication. The Vietnamese team regularly sends case summaries for discussion to the COA epilepsy conference. Three patients in Vietnam have undergone resection guided by ECoG without the US team present, although there was communication via internet-based telecollaboration tools between Vietnamese and US EEG technologists. To date, two of these three patients remain seizure free. The Vietnamese team has presented the results of their epilepsy experience at two international functional and epilepsy surgery scientific meetings.
Ongoing international collaboration has improved the surgical care of epilepsy in Vietnam. Experience suggests that the combination of in-country and US-based training, augmented by long-distance telecollaboration, is an effective paradigm for increasing the capacity for highly subspecialized, multidisciplinary neurosurgical care.