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Can J Anaesth. 2013 Feb;60(2):152-8. doi: 10.1007/s12630-012-9856-8. Epub 2012 Dec 11.

Review article: safety aspects of anesthesia in under-resourced locations.

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Department of Anesthesia, Royal Jubilee Hospital, University of British Columbia, 1652 Bay Street, Victoria, BC, V8R 1J8, Canada.



Improving patient safety during anesthesia and surgery is the focus of much effort worldwide. Major advances have occurred since the 1980s, especially in economically advantaged areas. This paper is a review of some of the challenges that face those who work in resource-poor areas of the world.


There is a shortage of trained anesthesia providers, both physician and non-physician, and this is particularly acute outside urban areas. Anesthesia is still sometimes delivered by unqualified people, which results in expected high rates of morbidity and mortality. Residency training programs in low-income countries ought to increase their output as anesthesiologists must be available to supervise non-physician providers. All groups require continuing medical education. In addition, increased efforts are needed to recruit trainees into the specialty of anesthesia and to retain them locally. There is a well-recognized shortage of resources for anesthesia. Consequently, concerted efforts are necessary to ensure reliable supplies of drugs, and attention should be paid to the procurement of anesthesia equipment appropriate for the location. Biomedical support must also be developed. Lifebox is a charitable foundation dedicated to supplying pulse oximeters to low- and middle-income countries. Adoption of the World Health Organization's Surgical Safety Checklist could further reduce morbidity and mortality.


Much time, effort, planning, and resources are required to ensure that anesthesia in low-income areas can reach internationally accepted standards. Such investment in anesthesia would result in wider access to surgical and obstetrical care, and the quality and safety of that care would be much improved.

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