June 14, 2021

Short-term effects of canceled surgical procedures during COVID-19 pandemic in VA Healthcare System

Editor's Note

In this study, from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Menlo Park, and Stanford University, both in California, researchers found that the pause in elective surgical procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic was not associated with short-term adverse outcomes in VA hospitals.

A total of 3,326 surgical procedures canceled because of COVID-19 in 2020 were matched with 151,863 similar procedures completed in 2018 and 146,582 completed in 2019.

Patients whose elective procedures were cancelled because of COVID-19 were no more likely to have emergency department visits in the 30 and 90 days following the expected surgery date.

Those with cancellations also had no difference in 30- and 90-day mortality rates.

The findings suggest that appropriate surgical case triage and management were carried out, the researchers say. Further study is needed to determine if the delayed cases were linked to longer-term effects.


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