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Neglected Elective Surgeries: A Global Health Crisis Leading to Increased Complexity and Higher Costs – A Study on Inguinal Hernias


A recent study published in The Lancet Global Health has highlighted the significant impact of poor access to essential elective surgeries, particularly in developing countries. The researchers, led by experts from the University of Birmingham and the NIHR Global Health Research Unit in Surgery, analyzed data from over 18,000 patients in 640 hospitals across 83 countries.

The team used inguinal hernias as a representative condition for elective Healthcare, concluding that such treatments are vital to prevent an overreliance on emergency systems. The study revealed that inguinal hernias can be treated with simple day-case surgery, but if left untreated, the need for more complex emergency surgery increases substantially. This leads to delayed recovery and significantly higher total healthcare costs.

Dr. Maria Picciochi, a study co-author from the University of Birmingham, emphasized, “Early and simple elective surgeries for conditions like inguinal hernias can significantly reduce the risk of complex, potentially risky, emergency surgeries. This would not only benefit individual patients but also relieve pressure on healthcare services and reduce the overall health burden on society.”

Prof. Aneel Bhangu, another co-author from the University of Birmingham, added, “Our findings can serve as a proxy for other elective conditions. By integrating surgery into the wider healthcare system, policymakers can create a system-strengthening approach to address this issue. This would help reduce the pressure on emergency pathways and ultimately improve overall health outcomes.”

The study also revealed that inguinal hernias are most prevalent among working-age patients worldwide. If neglected, these hernias may require bowel resection, leading to slow recovery and significantly higher healthcare costs. Furthermore, the researchers found a clear global imbalance in access to mesh repair, which is well-proven to reduce long-term hernia recurrence, is simple to place, low-cost, and scalable.

The study underscores the urgent need to address the issue of poor access to essential elective surgeries, which not only puts individual lives at risk but also creates a spiral of future health complications and increased healthcare costs.

1.  Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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