The rates of surviving a surgical procedure have increased significantly in the last few decades, despite surgeries becoming more complicated and patients becoming older. The chances of dying in the operating room are about one-tenth that of what they were before 1970, the study's benchmark year. Before 1970, 357 people per million surgeries died from receiving anesthetic, the study said. That rate dropped to 34 people per million in the 1990s and 2000s. That's a 90 percent rate of improvement.
The lead author of the study said a variety of factors have contributed to the improvement in surgical survival. "You can't point to one thing," said Dr. Daniel Bainbridge, an anesthesiologist and associate professor in the department of anesthesiology and peri-operative medicine at the University of Western Ontario."I'm sure it's better drugs. It's better training of our residents. It's better operating room environments, cleaner environments. Better equipment. It's an understanding about safety and culture safety and avoiding drug errors."
The study, published in this week's issue of the journal The Lancet, was undertaken to see whether advances in the science of anesthetizing people and improved surgical safety procedures were actually translating into fewer deaths in operating rooms.With more than 230 million major surgeries occurring annually around the world, the stakes are high.
Bainbridge and his group explored the issue by amalgamating data from 87 studies other researchers had done to try to get a global picture of what had been happening over the past few decades to rates of deaths during or immediately after surgery. The patient pool in the combined studies represents 21.4 million times people were administered general anesthetic for surgery.
The findings ought to give comfort to persons undergoing surgical procedures, knowing that their chances of coming out of the procedure have increased significantly since 1970. This is indeed good news, both revealing and proving how advances in science and medicine contribute to our well-being.
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