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Stanford Medicine

Anesthesiology, Global Health

A brief look at the global anesthesia crisis in developing countries

In a recent KevinMD.com entry, Kelly McQueen, MD, discusses the critical shortage of anesthesiologists in developing nations. I know that anesthetics and equipment are in short supply in various parts of the world, but I had no idea how bad the situation could be in low-income nations:

Many are unaware of the global anesthesia crisis in low-income countries around the world. Some countries have less than one physician per 10,000 people and even less than one anesthesiologist per 100,000 people. The ability to provide safe anesthesia for surgery, labor and delivery, and other procedures, as well as for acute and chronic pain, is nearly absent in many countries.

She later writes:

According to a 2010 Lancet article, 2 billion people are without access to emergency and essential surgery worldwide, and 34 million anesthetics are delivered annually in low-income countries without the standard safety equipment needed or a trained provider.

Those are absolutely shocking numbers.

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