London – More than 28 million planned surgeries across the world could be cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to patients facing a lengthy wait for their health issues to be resolved, according to a study.
The CovidSurg Collaborative, a 120-country research initiative formed to analyse the impact of COVID-19 on surgeries, has projected that, based on a 12-week period of peak disruption to hospital services due to COVID-19, around 28.4 million elective surgeries worldwide will cancelled or postponed in 2020, the researchers said.
The modelling study, published in the British Journal of Surgery, indicates that each additional week of disruption to hospital services will be associated with a further 2.4 million cancellations.
Led by researchers from the University of Birmingham, the study collected detailed information from surgeons across 359 hospitals and 71 countries on plans for cancellation of elective surgery.
This data was then statistically modelled to estimate totals for cancelled surgery across 190 countries.
The researchers project that worldwide 72.3 per cent of planned surgeries would be cancelled through the peak period of COVID-19 related disruption, adding that most cancelled surgeries will be for non-cancer conditions.
Orthopaedic procedures will be cancelled most frequently, with 6.3 million orthopaedic surgeries cancelled worldwide over a 12-week period, according to the researchers.
It is also projected that globally 2.3 million cancer surgeries will be cancelled or postponed, they said.
“During the COVID-19 pandemics elective surgeries have been cancelled to reduce the risk of patients being exposed to COVID-19 in hospital, and to support the wider hospital response, for example by converting operating theatres in to intensive care units,” said Aneel Bhangu, from the University of Birmingham.
“Although essential, cancellations place a heavy burden on patients and society. Patients” conditions may deteriorate, worsening their quality of life as they wait for rescheduled surgery. In some cases, for example cancer, delayed surgeries may lead to a number of unnecessary deaths,” said Bhangu.
Dmitri Nepogodiev, also from the University of Birmingham noted that each additional week of disruption to hospital services results in an additional 43,300 surgeries being cancelled.
Therefore, it is important that hospitals regularly assess the situation so that elective surgery can be resumed at the earliest opportunity, he said.