The power of marginal gains in obstetric anaesthesia


  • D N Lucas London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust
  • A Ezihe-Ejiofor Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
  • M C Mushambi University Hospitals of Leicester


The crucial role of anaesthesia in improving outcomes in obstetrics has received renewed attention over the last few years. In 2016, Sobhy and colleagues presented the first systematic review of anaesthesia-related maternal mortality in lowincome and middle-income countries (LMICs).1 They found that anaesthesia contributed to 2.8% of all maternal deaths in LMICs. This is a relatively small percentage and may be superficially reassuring to anaesthesia providers; however, the overall frequency of anaesthesia-related maternal death was 300-fold higher for neuraxial anaesthesia and 900-fold higher for general anaesthesia than that reported for the USA.2 In contrast to other causes of maternal mortality, anaesthesia does not represent a disease or pathological condition; deaths related to anaesthesia are iatrogenic. The underlying causes of death in the study by Sobhy and colleagues included airway-related complications (45%), pulmonary aspiration (31%) and staff competencies and equipment issues (27%). It therefore behoves all anaesthesia providers who care for obstetric patients to scrutinise practice and seek ways to reduce anaesthesia-related morbidity and mortality. This edition of SAJAA features four articles of direct relevance to obstetric anaesthesia that provide valuable insight into aspects of care and strategies for quality improvement. 

The full article is available at

Author Biographies

D N Lucas, London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust

Department of Anaesthesia, London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust, London, UK

A Ezihe-Ejiofor, Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

Department of Anaesthesia, Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, United Kingdom

M C Mushambi, University Hospitals of Leicester

Department of Anaesthesia, University Hospitals of Leicester, United Kingdom