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World J Surg. 2015 Sep;39(9):2140-6. doi: 10.1007/s00268-014-2905-4.

Surgical Care in Liberia and Implications for Capacity Building.

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Program in Global Surgery and Social Change, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA,



Situational needs of health care facilities inform the optimal allocation of resources and quality improvement efforts. This study examines surgical care delivery metrics at a tertiary care institution in Liberia.


We retrospectively reviewed operative and ward logbooks from January 1 to December 31, 2012. Data parameters included patients' age, diagnosis, procedure, mortality, and perioperative provider information.


In 2012, 1,036 operations were performed. The breakdown of adult surgical cases reveals 452 (45.1%) general surgery operations, 192 (18.5%) orthopedic operations, and 180 (17.4%) ophthalmic operations. Other significant case volume included urologic 53 (5.1%), ENT 36 (3.5%), neurosurgical 31 (3.0%), vascular 24 (2.3%), and plastic 14 (1.4%) operations. Pediatric patients accounted for 24.5% (243) of surgical cases, and 9% of pediatric surgical cases were for hydrocephalus. General, spinal, and total intravenous anesthesia was provided by non-physician personnel, except when surgeons provided their own anesthesia. Ward logs documented 7.4% mortality among all patients admitted to the surgical ward, most of which occurred after exploratory laparotomy (44%), in burn (14%) patients, and in patients with head/neck emergencies (12%).


This operative log review can be used to identify surgical practice patterns, needs, and deficits in order to inform the growth of surgical capacity at Liberia's only tertiary medical institution. Using this data to identify critical areas of high-yield operations (e.g., for pediatric hydrocephalus), or excessively high mortality rates (e.g., in burn care), can focus the direction of limited resources toward areas of need. While the heavy reliance on non-consultant surgeons reflects human capacity shortages and a pressing need for postgraduate training programs, identifying the breadth of surgical expertise demonstrated in these operative logs reveals the proficiencies required of surgeons to provide comprehensive surgical care in this setting.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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