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Global Public Health Impact of Recovered Supplies from Operating Rooms: A Critical Analysis with National Implications



In modern operating rooms, clean and unused medical supplies are routinely discarded and can be effectively recovered and redistributed abroad to alleviate the environmental burden of donor hospitals and to generate substantial health benefits at resource-poor recipient institutions.


We established a recovery and donation program to collect clean and unused supplies for healthcare institutions in developing nations. We analyzed items donated over a 3-year period (September 2010–November 2013) by quantity and weight, and estimated the projected value of the program under potential nationwide participation. To capture the health benefits attributable to the donated supplies at recipient institutions, we partnered with two tertiary-care centers in Guayaquil, Ecuador and conducted a pilot study on the utility of the donated supplies at the recipient institutions (October 2013). We determined the disability-adjusted life years (DALY) averted for all patients undergoing procedures involving donated items and estimated the annual attributable DALY as well as the cost per DALY averted both by supply and by procedure.


Approximately, 2 million lbs (907,185 kg) per year of medical supplies are recoverable from large non-rural US academic medical centers. Of these supplies, 19 common categories represent a potential for donation worth US $15 million per year, at a cost-utility of US $2.14 per DALY averted.


Hospital operating rooms continue to represent a large source of recoverable surgical supplies that have demonstrable health benefits in the recipient communities. Cost-effective recovery and need-based donation programs can significantly alleviate the global burden of surgical diseases.

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We thank all the SHARE volunteers who contributed to the success of the program. We also thank John G. Meara, MD, DMD, MBA for crucial feedback and Fizan Abdullah, MD, PhD for assistance in expanding the reach of SHARE. We also thank our operating room staff whose collaboration was critical for recovering supplies. We thank Peter Kalugin for his assistance with data analysis. ELW and MB were funded by the Woodrow Wilson Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program, Krieger School of Arts & Sciences, Johns Hopkins University.

Conflict of interest

Authors do not declare any potential or real conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

This study is not human subjects’ research and we obtained approval for the review of supply and patient characteristics from the institutional review board at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. This study conforms to the Declaration of Helsinki ethical principles for medical research.

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Correspondence to Eric L. Wan.

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Wan, E.L., Xie, L., Barrett, M. et al. Global Public Health Impact of Recovered Supplies from Operating Rooms: A Critical Analysis with National Implications. World J Surg 39, 29–35 (2015).

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