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Impact and Feasibility of Mechanical Ventilation at a Surgical Center in Sierra Leone: Experience From EMERGENCY's Hospital in Goderich.

OBJECTIVES: Despite the large burden of critically ill patients in developing countries, mechanical ventilation (MV) is scarce in these low-resource settings. In the absence of data, issues like costs and lack of training are often felt to outweigh the benefits of potential MV implementation in such places. We aimed to investigate the impact and feasibility of MV in a surgical ICU in West Africa.

DESIGN: This is a 7-month retrospective observational study (from October 25, 2022, to May 25, 2023), covering all patients consecutively admitted to ICU.

SETTING: The NGO EMERGENCY's hospital in Goderich, Freetown, Sierra Leone. The hospital is a referral center for acute care surgery.

PATIENTS: Critical patients admitted to the hospital's ICU.

INTERVENTIONS: Following brief, practical training of the nursing staff, one basic mechanical ventilator was installed at the hospital's ICU, under the supervision of two intensivists. Only patients with a body weight of over 15 kg and who met the "extreme criteria" for MV received this life-saving therapy.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Of the 195 files of patients admitted to ICU during the study period, 162 were analyzed. The median age was 16 (interquartile range 7-27) and 48.1% of the population were under 14 years. The most common cause of admission was trauma (58.6%), followed by acute abdomen (33.3%), caustic soda ingestion (6.2%), and burns (1.9%). Of the overall population, 26 patients (16%) underwent MV (88.5% trauma cases vs. 11.5% acute abdomen). Median time on MV was 24 hours (12-64). The mortality rate in the MV group was 30.8% (8/26), while in the overall study population, it was 11.7% (19/162). One potentially life-threatening event of tube obstruction was handled appropriately.

CONCLUSIONS: This study strongly supports the implementation of MV in low-resource settings. In our experience, the consistent benefit of reduced mortality among critical patients largely outweighs the associated challenges.

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