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Death Risk: Experts advise COVID-19 positive patients to delay surgery

Experts advise COVID-19 positive patients to delay surgery
Written by Rey Jeremiah

Medical experts have advised COVID-19 positive patients to delay surgery for at least seven weeks as operations taking place up to six weeks after diagnosis is associated with an increased risk of death.

Researchers in a new global study discovered that patients are more than two-and-a-half times more likely to die after their operations if the procedure takes place in the six weeks following a positive diagnosis for SARS-CoV-2.

Led by experts at the University of Birmingham, more than 25,000 surgeons worked together as part of the COVIDSurg Collaborative to collect data from 140,727 patients in 1,674 hospitals across 116 countries including Australia, Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, the UAE, UK, and USA – creating one of the world’s largest and broadest studies on surgery.

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Publishing their findings in Anaesthesia, the researchers discovered that patients operated 0-6 weeks after SARS-CoV-2 infection diagnosis were at increased risk of postoperative death, as were patients with ongoing symptoms at the time of surgery. The Co-lead author, Dr Dmitri Nepogodiev, from the University of Birmingham, said: “We recommend that whenever possible surgery should be delayed for at least seven weeks after a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result, or until symptoms resolve if patients have ongoing symptoms for 7 weeks or more after diagnosis.

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” Also, Co-lead author,  Mr Aneel Bhangu, from the University of Birmingham stated: “Decisions regarding delaying surgery should be tailored for each patient since the possible advantages of a minimum seven-week delay following SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis must be balanced against the potential risks of delay.

For some urgent surgeries, for example for advanced tumours, surgeons and patients may decide that the risks of delay are not justified.” Speaking the national lead in Nigeria Professor Adesoji Ademuyiwa, from the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, stated that: “It is imperative to determine the SARS-Cov-2 status of patients going for surgery in Nigeria as surgery may be delayed in positive patients for at least seven weeks or more if it is not an emergency.

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“ While it is known that infection with SARS-CoV-2 during surgery increases mortality and international guidelines recommend surgery should be delayed for patients testing positive for COVID-19, there is little evidence regarding the optimal duration of the delay.

Participating hospitals included all patients undergoing a surgical procedure in October 2020. Patients who became infected with SARS-CoV-2 after their surgery were excluded from the study. The primary outcome measure was 30-day postoperative death.

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Statistical modelling was used to adjust for patient, disease, and operation variables and calculate adjusted 30-day mortality rates for different time periods from SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis to surgery.

Time to surgery from SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis was 0-2 weeks in 1,144 (0.8 per cent), 3-4 weeks in 461 (0.3 per cent), 5-6 weeks in 327 (0.2%), 7 weeks or more in 1,205 (0.9%), and 137,590 (97.8 per cent) did not have SARS-CoV-2 infection. Adjusted 30-day mortality in patients who did not have SARS-CoV-2 infection was 1.5%.

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This was increased in patients operated at 0-2 weeks (4.0%), 3-4 weeks (4.0 per cent), and at 5-6 weeks (3.6%), but not at 7-8 weeks (1.5%) after SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis.

These findings were consistent across age groups, differing severity of the patient’s condition, the urgency of surgery, and grade of surgery, and sensitivity analyses for elective surgery. Following a delay of seven weeks or more, patients with ongoing COVID-19 symptoms (6.0%) had higher mortality than patients whose symptoms had resolved (2.4per cent) or who had been asymptomatic (1.3 per cent).

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Rey Jeremiah

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