THURSDAY, Sept. 20 (HealthDay News) -- The number of people who survive surgery when general anesthesia is used has improved dramatically over the past 50 years, Canadian researchers report.
The improvement was noted worldwide, with most of the increases in survival seen in developed countries, the researchers added. Overall, there was a 90 percent drop in such deaths since before the 1970s.
"Anesthesia safety continues to improve, and we should continue to find ways to make it even safer," said lead researcher Dr. Daniel Bainbridge, from the department of anesthesia and perioperative medicine at the University of Western Ontario.
"We have done a good job to reduce risk of anesthesia," he said. "However, it is similar to the airline industry in that passengers tend to be very concerned about dying while flying, likewise they also are concerned about dying [while] under anesthesia, so the question is whether we can reduce the rates even further."
The rate of improved safety, however, was lower in developing countries, Bainbridge said.
"More attention needs to be paid to taking care of those in less well-off countries, and these efforts are already under way but should be supported to a greater degree," he added.
The report was published in the Sept. 22 issue of The Lancet.
For the study, Bainbridge's team culled data from 87 studies spanning more than 60 years on anesthesia deaths. Specifically, they focused on how people fared in the two days after surgery.
The studies they analyzed contained data on more than 21.4 million cases in countries around the world, the researchers noted.
This type of study is called a meta-analysis, where researchers try to find common connections between a variety of different studies. The main problem with this kind of study is bias in selecting studies for analysis and forcing different data together t
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