PHILADELPHIA – On Tuesday, January 12, 2010 a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti and sent the small island country into a disaster of mammoth proportions. Thousands of doctors and other medical professionals from around the world immediately mobilized to volunteer their services to the more than 300,000 people injured in the quake. Anesthesiologists played a critical role as part of medical-surgical teams responding to the devastating earthquake. Now a new report in the December issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia details the experiences and response system used in Haiti by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine’s Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care.
“Despite the crucial role of anesthetics in surgical procedures, there is very little available literature or published guidelines to guide preparation for anesthesia response to disaster,” said lead report author Maureen McCunn, MD, assistant professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care. “After the earthquake, one of the first steps we took was to search for recommendations on protocol from others who had gone through this process….we found few reports. We sought to describe our experience and to define a ‘best list’ for others.”
Dr. McCunn and colleagues detail the structured and organized processes followed by the Penn team in preparing for their mission. The team was invited to go to Haiti with a nongovernmental organization, Partners in Health (PIH) with experience working in Haiti. They traveled to the village of Cange, where PIH has a hospital, arriving 14 days after the earthquake.
Team members were selected from volunteers from the Departments of Anesthesiology, Surgery, Orthopedics, and Nursing. The current report describes the development of equipment and medication lists, as well as a vaccination program for team members.
The team performed a total of 76 operations during their stay in Cange, along with other anesthetic procedures outside the operating room. "An organized system for international medical response to a natural disaster emergency can be accomplished safety and effectively by an academic anesthesiology department within 6 to 12 days," McCunn and co-authors conclude. They note that this "may be the ideal timeframe to bridge the gap between emergency response and longer-term relief care."
For more information on the report refer to the journal’s news release:
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The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 18 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $373 million awarded in the 2015 fiscal year.
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Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2015, Penn Medicine provided $253.3 million to benefit our community.