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World J Surg. 2010 Mar;34(3):397-402. doi: 10.1007/s00268-009-0181-5.

The provision of surgical care by international organizations in developing countries: a preliminary report.

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  • 1Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA.



Emerging data demonstrate that a large fraction of the global burden of disease is amenable to surgical intervention. There is a paucity of data related to delivery of surgical care in low- and middle-income countries, and no aggregate data describe the efforts of international organizations to provide surgical care in these settings. This study was designed to describe the roles and practices of international organizations delivering surgical care in developing nations with regard to surgical types and volume, outcomes tracking, and degree of integration with local health systems.


Between October 2008 and December 2008, an Internet-based confidential questionnaire was distributed to 99 international organizations providing humanitarian surgical care to determine their size, scope, involvement in surgical data collection, and integration into local systems.


Forty-six international organizations responded (response rate 46%). Findings reveal that a majority of organizations that provide surgery track numbers of cases performed and immediate outcomes, such as mortality. In general, these groups have mechanisms in place to track volume and outcomes, provide for postintervention follow-up, are committed to providing education, and work in conjunction with local health organizations and providers. Whereas most organizations surveyed provided fewer than 500 surgical procedures annually, more than half had the capacity to provide emergency services. In addition, a great diversity of specialized surgical care was provided, including obstetrics, orthopedic, plastic, and ophthalmologic surgery.


International organizations providing surgical services are diverse in size and breadth of surgical services provided yet, with consistency, provide rudimentary analysis, postoperative follow-up care, and both education and integration of health services at the local level. The role of international organizations in the delivery of surgery is an important index, worthy of further evaluation.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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