As World marks Anaesthesia Day Monday, Smile Train, the world’s largest cleft organization, and Lifebox, a global non-profit dedicated to safer surgery, are on a mission to address a 30-year access gap to capnography in operating rooms in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The two are working together to revolutionize paediatric surgery and anaesthesia practices, especially in low-resource settings, where the risk of complications and deaths remains high by providing access to capnography.
Capnograph is a monitoring tool that measures a patient’s carbon dioxide output during anaesthesia and has been instrumental in reducing complications and deaths related to anaesthesia since its introduction in the 1990s.
Affordable, user-friendly, and reliable, the device features sturdy construction and long battery life, meeting rigorous specifications for monitoring paediatric patients.
Research shows a staggering 97 per cent capnography gap in low-resource settings, where patients, especially children, remain at a heightened risk due to complications during surgery from lack of monitoring.
Dr. Zipporah Gathuya, a paediatric anesthesiologist in Nairobi, Kenya, serves on the global medical advisory board for Smile Train and has been at the forefront of advocating for improved anaesthesia practices in low-resource settings.
She states, “Putting a person under anaesthesia without a capnograph is like flying blind – you lack the basic information required to keep them safe. Capnography shouldn’t be a privilege; it’s a demand for patient safety everywhere, and it’s needed now.”
Dr. Gathuya highlights the unique challenges encountered in low-resource settings when monitoring patients during anaesthesia.
“These challenges encompass infrastructure, including the availability of operating rooms, monitors, oxygen, and consistent utilities and create a significant gap in the safety culture. This collaboration between Smile Train and Lifebox is set to be instrumental in addressing these critical issues” she says.
“Studies have shown that in this part of the world, a child undergoing anaesthesia is 100 times more likely to die than in developed countries”, she adds
Despite advancements in medical science, the mortality rate from general anaesthesia still remains high in Sub-Saharan Africa that is why this year, 350 operating rooms in Ethiopia, the Philippines, Somalia, and Uganda will be equipped with the Smile Train-Lifebox Capnograph.
“ These cases can be eliminated through capnography. In the developed world, it is unheard of for patients to undergo surgery without capnography, and we are trying to achieve the same standard of care in Kenya. There is a significant gap in sub-Saharan Africa and we must address it,” she said
While initiatives like the Smile Train-Lifebox partnership are crucial Dr Gathuya insists that there’s a significant role for the government and county governments to play in bridging the gap that exists in operating rooms in Kenya.
Explainer about World Anaesthesia Day
World Anaesthesia Day is a reminder of the crucial role of anaesthesia providers in surgical outcomes and the need to create awareness about safe anaesthesia practices.
The commemorates the birth of anaesthesia on 16th October 1846. When doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital demonstrated the use of ether for the first time on a patient. In doing so they changed surgery forever, proving it was possible for patients to undergo surgery without the torture of pain previously associated with it.
Despite nearly 170 years having passed since that first anaesthetic procedure and the countless breakthroughs that have succeeded it, nearly 5 billion people continue to lack access to safe anaesthesia practices.
Each year for World Anaesthesia Day WFSA focus on a different aspect of anaesthesia care. This helps us to explain the varied, diverse and critical roles that anaesthesiologists play in patient wellbeing.
This year’s theme, ‘Anaesthesia and Cancer Care,’ emphasizes anaesthesia’s critical role in cancer treatment and advocates for its expansion to enhance outcomes for cancer patients.