Emergency preparedness for biological and chemical incidents: a survey of anesthesiology residency programs in the United States

Anesth Analg. 2005 Oct;101(4):1135-1140. doi: 10.1213/01.ane.0000167642.11429.f5.


We surveyed health care professionals about their preparations to manage the clinical problems associated with patients exposed to hazardous substances, including weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Training for WMD is considered a key part of public health policy and preparedness. Although such events are rare, when they do occur, they can cause mass casualties. In many models of mass casualty management, anesthesiology personnel are responsible for treating patients immediately on arrival at the hospital. We studied the extent of training offered to anesthesiology personnel in the use of WMD protective gear and patient management in United States (US) anesthesiology residency programs. Information was obtained via an online survey to all program directors and chair persons of anesthesiology programs. We polled all of the 135 US anesthesiology programs of which 90 (67%) responded. Only 37% had any form of training, and many of them did not repeat training after initial sessions. Twenty-eight percent of programs east of the Mississippi River reported some form of training whereas only 17% of programs west of it reported training available. The majority of anesthesia residency programs in the US that responded to our survey provided little or no training in the management of patients exposed to WMD.

Implications: In an attack involving weapons of mass destruction or toxic chemicals, anesthesiologists will provide care. Our survey of United States anesthesiology residency programs demonstrated that there is limited training of residents regarding the anesthetic management of patients injured by weapons of mass destruction. This has serious public health implications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesiology / education*
  • Bioterrorism*
  • Emergencies
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • United States