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“Blitz Surgery”: Redefining Surgical Needs, Training, and Practice in Sub-Saharan Africa

Abstract

Background

Most reconstructive surgery in Sub-Saharan Africa is provided by numerous noncoordinated individuals and organizations, in multiple short trips, or “surgical blitzes.” Because many such groups do not train local surgeons, these communities have become dependent on unsustainable systems. By providing much-needed care to otherwise neglected areas, the blitzes offer an easy solution to what would otherwise be the source of a significant headache to local governments.

Methods

The collection of data and other material in this highly ambiguous and fluid field is nearly impossible, as scientific papers on the results of poor surgical treatment, especially in the realm of humanitarian medicine, do not exist: The author has had to rely on personal experience and community interaction to reach the views and conclusions articulated in this article.

Results

Although not the rule, blitz surgeries have poorer outcomes than in-hospital procedures, primarily because of inadequate preoperative and postoperative care.

Conclusions

Although the value of blitz surgery in meeting some of the surgical needs of otherwise neglected communities is undeniable, the author seeks to provoke a sober reexamination of these efforts vis-à-vis the long-term sustainability of such programs, with the objective of harnessing strengths that would see the evolution of a new reconstructive surgical service tailor-made for Africa—affordable and sustainable yet able to deliver quality surgical care to the remotest villages. Otherwise, these humanitarian efforts’ will continue to be ‘drops in the ocean, meeting the needs of a few in the community but resulting in no long-term gains.

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Correspondence to Peter M. Nthumba.

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Nthumba, P.M. “Blitz Surgery”: Redefining Surgical Needs, Training, and Practice in Sub-Saharan Africa. World J Surg 34, 433–437 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00268-009-0256-3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00268-009-0256-3

Keywords

  • Local Doctor
  • East African Region
  • Local Professional
  • Improve Health Care Delivery
  • Bamako Initiative