Prospective Observational Study of Intraoperative Anesthetic Events in District Hospitals in Namibia

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Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Access to safe surgery and anesthesia care is grossly inadequate in low- and middle-income countries, with a shortage of anesthesia providers contributing to this crisis. In Namibia, medical officers typically receive no >3 months of informal training in anesthesia. This study sought to determine the prevalence, currently unknown, of intraoperative adverse anesthetic events in this setting. Further, we assessed surgical volume, complications, and mortality outcomes at the district hospital level.

METHODS:

This was a prospective observational study over 7 months involving 4 district hospitals from geographically separate and diverse areas of Namibia. A standardized protocol was used to record adverse anesthetic events during surgery, surgical volume, and complications including mortality.

RESULTS:

A total of 737 surgical procedures were performed during the study period. There was a 10% prevalence of adverse anesthetic events intraoperatively. Of these, 70% were related to hypotension and 17% due to hypoxia and/or difficult/failed intubation. Ninety-eight percent of patients were classed as low risk (American Society of Anesthesiologists I or II). Seventy-two percent of the surgical workload was in obstetrics and gynecology, with over half being for urgent obstetrics. Perioperative mortality rate was 1.4/1000, with an overall surgical complication rate of 1.6% and a surgical infection rate of 0.8%.

CONCLUSIONS:

We found a 10% prevalence of adverse anesthetic events intraoperatively when anesthesia was administered by medical officers with no >3 months of informal training in this low-resource environment. The patients were considered low risk by the medical officers responsible for the anesthesia, yet these events had the potential to lead to patient harm.

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