Providing anesthesia in resource-limited settings

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Abstract

Purpose of review

The article reviews the reality of anesthetic resource constraints in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). Understanding these limitations is important to volunteers from high-income countries who desire to teach or safely provide anesthesia services in these countries.

Recent findings

Recently published information on the state of anesthetic resources in LMICs is helping to guide humanitarian outreach efforts from high-income countries. The importance of using context-appropriate anesthesia standards and equipment is now emphasized. Global health experts are encouraging equal partnerships between anesthesia health care providers working together from different countries. The key roles that ketamine and regional anesthesia play in providing well tolerated anesthesia for cesarean sections and other common procedures is increasingly recognized.

Summary

Anesthesia can be safely given in LMICs with basic supplies and equipment, if the anesthesia provider is trained and vigilant. Neuraxial and regional anesthesia and the use of ketamine as a general anesthetic appear to be the safest alternatives in low-resource countries. Environmentally appropriate equipment should be encouraged and pulse oximeters should be in every anesthetizing location. LMICs will continue to need support from outside sources until capacity building has made more progress.

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