Background In modern operating rooms, clean and unused medical supplies are routinely discarded and can be effectively recovered and redistributed abroad to alleviate the environmental burden of donor hospitals and to generate substantial health benefits at resource-poor recipient institutions. Methods We established a recovery and donation program to collect clean and unused supplies for healthcare institutions in developing nations. We analyzed items donated over a 3-year period (September 2010-November 2013) by quantity and weight, and estimated the projected value of the program under potential nationwide participation. To capture the health benefits attributable to the donated supplies at recipient institutions, we partnered with two tertiary-care centers in Guayaquil, Ecuador and conducted a pilot study on the utility of the donated supplies at the recipient institutions (October 2013). We determined the disability-adjusted life years (DALY) averted for all patients undergoing procedures involving donated items and estimated the annual attributable DALY as well as the cost per DALY averted both by supply and by procedure. Results Approximately, 2 million lbs (907,185 kg) per year of medical supplies are recoverable from large nonrural US academic medical centers. Of these supplies, 19 common categories represent a potential for donation worth US $ 15 million per year, at a cost-utility of US $2.14 per DALY averted. Conclusions Hospital operating rooms continue to represent a large source of recoverable surgical supplies that have demonstrable health benefits in the recipient communities. Cost-effective recovery and need-based donation programs can significantly alleviate the global burden of surgical diseases.
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