May 11, 2022

Downstream effects of COVID-19 generated surgical backlog

By: Judy Mathias
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Editor's Note

Delayed elective surgical procedures because of COVID-19 resulted in more emergency department (ED) visits and the need for urgent interventions for gallstone disease but not inguinal hernias, this Canadian study finds.

Researchers identified 74,709 elective cholecystectomies and 60,038 elective inguinal hernia repairs. During COVID-19 first and second waves (March 1, 2020 to February 28, 2021):

  • Elective inguinal hernia repairs decreased by 21%, and elective cholecystectomies decreased by 23%.
  • ED visits for inguinal hernias decreased by 17%, and ED visits for gallstone disease decreased by 8%.
  • There was a higher population rate of urgent cholecystectomies, particularly after the first wave, and there was no difference in the rate of inguinal hernias.

The researchers concluded that a more than 20% reduction in elective surgical procedures and an increase in urgent cholecystectomies suggest a rebound effect secondary to the COVID-19 generated surgical backlog. The backlog will have a varied downstream effect with significant implications for surgical recovery planning, they say.

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