December 8, 2021

Change in volume of surgical procedures during COVID-19 pandemic

By: Judy Mathias
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Editor's Note

In this study, researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine find that the initial COVID-19 shutdown from March through April 2020 resulted in a decrease in surgical volume to nearly half of baseline rates. After the reopening, surgical volume rebounded to 2019 levels, and the trend was maintained.

Analyzing more than 13 million surgical procedures in the US from January 1, 2019, through January 30, 2021, researchers found there was a 48% decrease in surgical procedure volume across all major categories immediately after elective procedures were halted in March 2020.


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Otolaryngology, cataract, and musculoskeletal procedures decreased the most; there was no difference in organ transplants and cesarean deliveries.

After reopening, surgical procedure volumes rebounded to 2019 levels except for Otolaryngology procedures.

The findings suggest that healthcare systems learned to adapt and self-regulate, maintaining surgical volume during the COVID-19 surge from October 22, 2020, to January 31, 2021, the researchers say.

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