Safe Anesthesia: An Essential Component of Safe Surgery

December 12, 2014

While the term “Safe Surgery” is often used in the literature, it is important to remember that a vital component of surgery, and often the part associated with the greatest risk, is anesthesia. In fact, Hendel et al. recently described safe anesthesia as “the rate limiting step” in providing surgical care in low-income countries. They suggest that international advocacy groups and organizations support national professional societies for anesthesia providers in developing standards of practice, quality initiatives, and opportunities for continuing medical education to strengthen safe anesthesia in low-income countries.

The importance of safe anesthesia has been long recognized by Operation Smile and has served as the basis for safety measures within the Global Standards of Care. For example, intra-operative pulse-oximetry measurement is required during any operation performed on international and local missions. Access to dantrolene, the medication used to treat malignant hyperthermia (a severe, incidental reaction to certain anesthetics), is also required before beginning any mission.  Additionally, Operation Smile invests in multiple anesthesia training programs each year that provide didactic and hands on learning opportunities for volunteer medical providers around the world.  Further advocacy for safe anesthesia is essential to increase access to safe surgery around the world. 

Hendel S, Coonan T, Thomas S, McQueen K. The Rate-Limiting Step: The Provision of Safe Anesthesia in Low-Income Countries. World J Surg. 2014 Sep 9. [Epub ahead of print]

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