Report – A Critical Gap: pulse oximetry in low- and middle-income countries

A Smile Train-Lifebox report on pulse oximetry access and impact in low- and middle-income countries

Pulse oximeters rapidly measure the oxygen level of the blood and are essential for patient monitoring during anesthesia and in intensive care. Pulse oximeters are a minimum standard for safe anesthesia and are the only piece of equipment included on the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist. Despite their low cost, thousands of operating rooms and recovery beds still lack pulse oximetry – putting millions of lives at risk.

The A Critical Gap: pulse oximetry in low- and middle-income countries report details the impact of pulse oximetry through first hand experiences from anesthesia colleagues across Africa, the role of oximetry during the COVID-19 panedmic, and highlights remaining gaps in the safe provision of anesthesia care.

Lifebox was founded to tackle the global ‘pulse oximetry gap’ by distributing a low-cost, high-quality, robust pulse oximeter alongside training for safer anesthesia. To date, Lifebox has distributed 32,000 pulse oximeters. Read more about our work to improve anesthesia safety.
“I got interested in patient safety when I realized how here in Africa, we bear an unfair share of perioperative mortality. In my country [Kenya], many hospitals still do not have access to reliable and accessible pulse oximetry.”
Dr. Zipporah Gathuya, pediatric anesthesiologist, Kenya – May 2022
Pulse oximetry access in perioperative settings

Pulse oximetry access in perioperative settings

In low and lower-middle income settings, 15% of operating beds and 42% of recovery beds in postanesthetic care areas, lacked a pulse oximeter. A Lifebox, Smile Train, and Jhpiego survey - published in the Annals of Surgery - found low-resource settings faced significant gaps in access to essential resources including equipment such as viral filters and pulse oximeters.¹



<sup>1 Starr N, Capo-Chichi N, Moore J, Shreckengost CH, Fernandez K, Ambulkar R, et al. Perioperative Provider Safety in Low- And Middle-income Countries during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Call for Renewed Investments in Resources and Training. Annals of Surgery. 2021 Dec 1;274(6):E525–627.</sup>