Anaesthesia care providers employed in humanitarian settings by Medecins Sans Frontieres: a retrospective observational study of 173 084 surgical cases over 10 years

Kudsk-Iversen S, Trelles M, Ngowa Bakebaanitsa E, Hagabimana L, Momen A, Helmand R, Saint Victor C, Shah K, Masu A, Kendell J, Edgcombe H, English M
BMJ Open. 2020;10

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OBJECTIVE: To describe the extent to which different categories of anaesthesia provider are used in humanitarian surgical projects and to explore the volume and nature of their surgical workload. DESIGN: Descriptive analysis using 10 years (2008-2017) of routine case-level data linked with routine programme-level data from surgical projects run exclusively by Medecins Sans Frontieres-Operational Centre Brussels (MSF-OCB). SETTING: Projects were in contexts of natural disaster (ND, entire expatriate team deployed by MSF-OCB), active conflict (AC) and stable healthcare gaps (HG). In AC and HG settings, MSF-OCB support pre-existing local facilities. Hospital facilities ranged from basic health centres with surgical capabilities to tertiary referral centres. PARTICIPANTS: The full dataset included 178 814 surgical cases. These were categorised by most senior anaesthetic provider for the project, according to qualification: specialist physician anaesthesiologists, qualified nurse anaesthetists and uncertified anaesthesia providers. PRIMARY OUTCOME MEASURE: Volume and nature of surgical workload of different anaesthesia providers. RESULTS: Full routine data were available for 173 084 cases (96.8%): 2518 in ND, 42 225 in AC, 126 936 in HG. Anaesthesia was predominantly led by physician anaesthesiologists (100% in ND, 66% in AC and HG), then nurse anaesthetists (19% in AC and HG) or uncertified anaesthesia providers (15% in AC and HG). Across all settings and provider groups, patients were mostly healthy young adults (median age range 24-27 years), with predominantly females in HG contexts, and males in AC contexts. Overall intra-operative mortality was 0.2%. CONCLUSION: Our findings contribute to existing knowledge of the nature of anaesthetic provision in humanitarian settings, while demonstrating the value of high-quality, routine data collection at scale in this sector. Further evaluation of perioperative outcomes associated with different models of humanitarian anaesthetic provision is required.