Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) is one of the main providers of orthopaedic surgery in natural disaster and conflict settings and strictly imposes a minimum set of context specific standards before any surgery can be performed. Based on MSF’s experience of performing orthopaedic surgery in a number of such settings, we describe: (a) whether it was possible to implement the minimum standards for one of the more rigorous orthopaedic procedures—internal fixation—and when possible, the time frame, (b) the volume and type of interventions performed and (c) the intra-operative mortality rates and postoperative infection rates. We conducted a retrospective review of routine programme data collected between 2007 and 2014 from three MSF emergency surgical interventions in Haiti (following the 2010 earthquake) and three ongoing MSF projects in Kunduz (Afghanistan), Masisi (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Tabarre (Haiti).
It was concluded that in settings affected by natural disaster or conflict, a high volume and wide repertoire of orthopaedic surgical procedures can be performed with good outcomes when minimum standards are in place. More demanding procedures like internal fixation may not always be feasible.