World Journal of Surgery

, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 252–263 | Cite as

Cost-effectiveness of Surgery in Low- and Middle-income Countries: A Systematic Review

  • Caris E. GrimesEmail author
  • Jaymie Ang Henry
  • Jane Maraka
  • Nyengo C. Mkandawire
  • Michael Cotton



There is increasing interest in provision of essential surgical care as part of public health policy in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). Relatively simple interventions have been shown to prevent death and disability. We reviewed the published literature to examine the cost-effectiveness of simple surgical interventions which could be made available at any district hospital, and compared these to standard public health interventions.


PubMed and EMBASE were searched using single and combinations of the search terms “disability adjusted life year” (DALY), “quality adjusted life year,” “cost-effectiveness,” and “surgery.” Articles were included if they detailed the cost-effectiveness of a surgical intervention of relevance to a LMIC, which could be made available at any district hospital. Suitable articles with both cost and effectiveness data were identified and, where possible, data were extrapolated to enable comparison across studies.


Twenty-seven articles met our inclusion criteria, representing 64 LMIC over 16 years of study. Interventions that were found to be cost-effective included cataract surgery (cost/DALY averted range US$5.06–$106.00), elective inguinal hernia repair (cost/DALY averted range US$12.88–$78.18), male circumcision (cost/DALY averted range US$7.38–$319.29), emergency cesarean section (cost/DALY averted range US$18–$3,462.00), and cleft lip and palate repair (cost/DALY averted range US$15.44–$96.04). A small district hospital with basic surgical services was also found to be highly cost-effective (cost/DALY averted 1 US$0.93), as were larger hospitals offering emergency and trauma surgery (cost/DALY averted US$32.78–$223.00). This compares favorably with other standard public health interventions, such as oral rehydration therapy (US$1,062.00), vitamin A supplementation (US$6.00–$12.00), breast feeding promotion (US$930.00), and highly active anti-retroviral therapy for HIV (US$922.00).


Simple surgical interventions that are life-saving and disability-preventing should be considered as part of public health policy in LMIC. We recommend an investment in surgical care and its integration with other public health measures at the district hospital level, rather than investment in single disease strategies.


Cataract Surgery Clubfoot Surgical Care Male Circumcision Trachoma 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Société Internationale de Chirurgie 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Caris E. Grimes
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jaymie Ang Henry
    • 3
    • 4
  • Jane Maraka
    • 5
  • Nyengo C. Mkandawire
    • 6
  • Michael Cotton
    • 7
  1. 1.Kings Centre for Global Health, Kings CollegeLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of General SurgeryEast Surrey HospitalRedhillUK
  3. 3.University of California Berkeley School of Public HealthBerkeleyUSA
  4. 4.Institute for Global Orthopaedics and Traumatology (IGOT)San FranciscoUSA
  5. 5.East of England DeaneryEssexUK
  6. 6.College of MedicineUniversity of MalawiBlantyreMalawi
  7. 7.A&E DepartmentUniversity Hospital of Canton VaudLausanneSwitzerland

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