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Afr Health Sci. 2011 Sep;11(3):438-43.

Incidence, causes and pattern of cancellation of elective surgical operations in a university teaching hospital in the Lake Zone, Tanzania.

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Department of Surgery, Weill-Bugando University College of Health Sciences, Mwanza, Tanzania.



Cancellation of elective surgical operations is recognized as a major cause of emotional trauma to patients as well as their families. This study was carried out to assess the incidence, causes and pattern of cancellation of elective surgical operations in our setting and to find the appropriate solutions for better patient management.


This was a prospective hospital-based study which was conducted in a teaching hospital at Bugando medical Centre from March 2009 to February 2010.


A total of 3,064 patients were scheduled for elective surgical operations. Of these, 644 (21.0%) patients' operations were cancelled. General surgery had the highest rate of cancellations (31.5%) followed by orthopaedic surgery in 25.5%. Lack of theatre space and theatre facilities were the most common causes of cancellations in 53.0% and 28.4% of cases respectively. The majority of these cancellations were attributable to hospital administration in 82.0 % and most of them were preventable in 93.8% of cases. The mean hospital stay was 28.46 days and it was significantly related to the number of cancellations (p < 0.001).


Cancellation of elective surgical operations is a significant problem in our hospital. To prevent unnecessary cancellations, efforts should be made to enhance cost effectiveness through careful planning and efficient utilization of the few available hospital resources.


Elective surgical operations; Tanzania; cancellation; causes; incidence

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