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Coronavirus could cause 28 million canceled surgeries globally—study

/ 03:30 PM May 17, 2020
surgeons

The study, published this week in the British Journal of Surgery, modeled the expected number of elective operations that would be put on hold in 190 countries during a 12-week peak of COVID-19 disruption. Image: Dmitry Kalinovsky/Shutterstock

Some 28.4 million planned surgeries could be canceled or postponed globally due to the new coronavirus pandemic, according to new research warning that huge backlogs risk “potentially devastating” consequences for patients and health systems.

The study, published this week in the British Journal of Surgery, modeled the expected number of elective operations that would be put on hold in 190 countries during a 12-week peak of COVID-19 disruption.

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Hospitals in countries grappling with major coronavirus outbreaks have postponed most non-emergency procedures to avoid putting patients at risk, redeploying staff and resources to the virus response.

Researchers from the COVIDSurg Collaborative, an information-sharing network of surgeons and anesthetists in 77 countries, estimated that some 2.4 million operations would be canceled per week in the period, or 28.4 million in total.

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They called on governments to urgently develop recovery plans to clear the backlog of surgeries and prepare for possible further waves of COVID-19 infection.

“Cancelling elective surgery at this scale will have substantial impact on patients and cumulative, potentially devastating consequences for health systems worldwide,” the authors said.

“Delaying time-sensitive elective operations, such as cancer or transplant surgery, may lead to deteriorating health, worsening quality of life, and unnecessary deaths.”

Globally, around 82% of benign surgeries, 38% of cancer operations and around a quarter of elective Caesarean sections would be canceled or postponed, the study found.

It said that it would take an average of 45 weeks to clear the backlog, assuming that countries boost their normal surgical volume by 20%.

The researchers used survey data from specialists at 359 hospitals in 71 countries, as well as information on normal surgery rates to model the likely effect across 190 countries.

Their estimate that the peak surge of infections would last around 12 weeks was based on the experience of China’s Hubei province, where the virus emerged. NVG

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TOPICS: coronavirus, COVID-19, Public Health, surgery
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