BACKGROUND: Although laparoscopic cholecystectomy was first introduced in Mongolia in 1994, the benefits of the laparoscopic approach have been largely unavailable to the majority of the population. The burden of gallbladder disease in Mongolia is significant. Despite the barriers to expanding laparoscopic surgery in Mongolia (lack of physical resources and adequate training opportunities, a difficult political situation, and an austere environment), the Health Sciences University of Mongolia (HSUM) began looking for ways to further the development of laparoscopy for the entire country, including the rural areas where half the population resides.
METHODS: Combined didactic and practical training courses lasting 2 weeks were developed collaboratively by a private nongovernmental organization and HSUM. The courses were taught at tertiary care centers in the capital city (Ulaanbaatar) and in a smaller, rural city (Erdenet), the regional northern referral center. Demographic data, preoperative diagnosis, ultrasound and operative findings, operative times, length of hospital stay, and intraoperative and postoperative complication rates were compared from 2007-2008 from hospitals in Ulaanbaatar and Erdenet.
RESULTS: A total of 36 surgeons participated in the training classes, and a total of 410 laparoscopic cholecystectomies were performed. Ultrasound was used as a diagnostic tool in all cases. There was no significant difference in intraoperative or postoperative complications between hospitals in the capital, where the procedures were performed by skilled laparoscopic surgeons, and in Erdenet, where the training courses first introduced laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Neither were there differences in complication rates between cases during the teaching and nonteaching periods.
CONCLUSIONS: Laparoscopic cholecystectomy can be expanded safely to the regional diagnostic referral centers in rural Mongolia through short-term training courses as a method to markedly improve access and outcomes for the 50% of the country previously denied the benefits of minimally invasive surgery.
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