A study by researchers at the University of Cape
Town (UCT) and University of Birmingham shows that 4.2 million people die each
year within 30 days of surgery, more than from HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria
combined (2.9 million).

Half the post-surgical deaths occur in low- and
middle-income countries (LMICs).There is also a significant unmet need for
surgery in LMICs and researchers believe that if operations were provided for
all patients who need them the number of global post-operative deaths would
increase to 6.1-million per year.

The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery identified that 313 million surgical
procedures are performed each year, but little is known about the quality of
surgery globally, as robust postoperative death rates are available for only 29
countries. There is also a significant unmet need for surgery in LMICs and
researchers believe that if operations were provided for all patients who need
them the number of global post-operative deaths would increase to 6.1-million
per year.

“It is estimated that approximately five-billion people globally are unable to
access safe surgical treatment, and nearly 95% of these people live in low-and
middle-income countries. Expanding surgical services to address unmet needs
would add another 1.9 million post-operative deaths in LMICs each year. To
avoid millions more people dying after surgery, planned expansion of access to
surgery must be complemented by investment in to improving the quality of
surgery around the world,” says Bruce Biccard, professor and second chair
of UCT’s Department of Anaesthesia & Perioperative Medicine and president
of the South African Society of Anaesthesiologists (SASA).

Researchers at the University of Birmingham’s NIHR Global
Health Research Unit on Global Surgery analysed available information to
estimate how many people around the world die after operations – based on
surgical volume, case-mix and post-operative death rates adjusted for country
income.

“Surgery saves lives and can transform patients’ quality of life, but this
study shows that a large number of patients die in the immediate postoperative
period. As efforts continue to increase access to surgery around the world,
there is also an urgent need for research to improve the quality and safety of
surgery,” says Prof Dion Morton, Barling Chair of Surgery at the
University of Birmingham and director of clinical research at the Royal College
of Surgeons of England.

Source: University
of Cape Town

Reference:
Biccard B, et al. Global burden of postoperative death. The Lancet. Published 2
February 2019.
https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)33139-8/fulltext