Medicine in Africa

Recent research done in Africa has shown that after-surgery complications are prevalent and has become a significant setback in Africa’s health-care. This has prompted to an increase in proper surgical treatments in African hospitals.

The African Surgical Outcomes study was carried out between February and May of 2016, which involved 25 African countries. A convenient sample was picked from ten hospitals in each country, and where the hospitals were less than ten, half of the country’s surgical centers were chosen. This prospective study took a 7-day period and entailed a group of patients aged 18 years and above undergoing inpatient surgery. The main objective was to assess postoperative surgical complications and grade the outcome as severe, moderate or mild. The data were presented as mean, median or a percentage and compared using the t-tests.

This survey studied 11,422 in-patients from 247 hospitals across Africa. The median age of the in-patients was 38.5 years. This group of patients has a low-risk profile as compared to high-income countries. The hospitals served an average population of 810,000 patients. The hospitals performed average surgical operations of 212 per 100,000 people each year with a combined number of professional surgeons, anesthetists, and obstetricians totaling to 0.7 per 100,000 patients. 57% of the surgeries were emergency cases while 33% of the patients underwent the most common operation, cesarean delivery and 11% of the patients were infected with HIV. The findings showed that 1,977 of 10,885 patients developed post-surgery complications, 225 died a day after surgery and 239 of 11, 193 patients passed away weeks after surgery. The most common postoperative complication was found to be infection affecting 10% of 10,970 patients and causing death to 9.7% of them. These findings are registered on the South African National Health Research Database.

The above analysis indicates a high number of postoperative complications in Africa. The number of postoperative deaths is likely to double in African countries compared to the other continents of the world. Therefore more stringent measures should be put in place to increase access to proper and safe surgical treatment in Africa to avoid deteriorating health in patients who develop after-surgery complications.

This study was funded by the Medical Research Council of South Africa.


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