Surgeons participate in a five-way organ transplant swap, in New York, August 1, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/Keith Bedford
Surgery has become a lot safer over the least five decades, a Canadian study has found.
This, despite that fact that modern surgeries are much more complicated and modern patients can be much sicker.
Dr. Daniel Bainbridge, an anesthesiologist and a professor at Western University in London, Ont., said there are a number reasons for this improved safety, including "better training, better drugs, better monitoring."
"There has also been a strong safety culture in anesthesia aiming to prevent accidents," he said, adding that patients who fear going under the knife should take comfort in these findings.
The death rate associated with surgery is just one-tenth of what it was before 1970, according to the study.
Before the '90s, 357 out of every one million surgeries resulted in anesthetic-related deaths because of "too much anesthesia, giving the wrong drug (or) not managing patient breathing."
That dropped to 52 per one million in the '70s and '80s, then 24 per one million in the '90s and 2000s.
"Like flying in a plane, we fear dying during surgery, but having an operation is safe and we are trying to make it safer," Bainbridge said.
"Similar to flying, this will hopefully make people feel safer when having an anesthetic, but we will always have patients who are scared of anesthesia, just like we will always have people afraid of flying."
But the picture is not so optimistic everywhere. The study found anesthesia-related deaths and other surgical complications were two to three times higher in developing countries.
Bainbridge said countries like Canada "need to further assist developing countries" to develop safer surgical practices.
The researchers looked at 87 separate studies, representing 21.4 million surgeries involving general anesthetic.
The study was published Friday in the medical journal the Lancet.