November 2, 2020

Effect of elective surgery cancellation on ICU capacity in New York State

By: Judy Mathias
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Editor's Note

Suspension of elective surgical procedures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in New York State had only a minor effect on ICU capacity, this study finds.

State authorities suspended all elective surgical procedures in mid-March 2020 to increase hospital and ICU bed capacity. However, the effect of canceling elective surgical procedures on ICU bed and ventilator capacity has not been well studied.


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This study, led by researchers from Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, New York City, reviewed 5 years of New York State data on ICU usage. ICU admissions were found in 10.1% of all hospitalizations and remained stable from 2011 to 2015.

Of 1,232,986 ICU stays, sources of admission included:

  • elective surgery, 13.4%
  • emergent/urgent admissions/trauma surgery, 28%
  • medical admissions, 58.6%.

Ventilator use was found in 26.3% of all ICU patients:

  • elective surgery, 6.4%
  • emergent admissions, 32.8%
  • medical admissions, 60.8%.

The researchers concluded that ICU admissions from patients after elective surgery is likely to have only a small effect on ICU bed availability. The results may be valuable for hospital administrators and disaster planning policymakers to optimize the response to future diseases.

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