This massively-multicenter (235 hospitals, 24 countries; mainly Europe & N. America) cohort study investigated post-operative morbidity and mortality in those with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Why is this significant?
Early data suggested that COVID-19 patients who underwent even minor elective surgery suffered worse post-operative outcomes, particularly higher mortality.
This large cohort study confirms these concerns and will assist decision making around the timing of surgery for COVID-19 patients and the process for re-commencing elective surgery in communities hardest hit by the pandemic.
What did they do?
Over a 3 month period in early 2020 the researchers analysed 1,128 patients who underwent emergency (74%) or elective (25%) surgery across 24 countries. Patients diagnosed with COVID seven days pre-op or 30 days post-op were included, although the majority of patients (74%) had SARS-CoV-2 infection diagnosed post-operatively.
And they found?
30-day mortality was extremely high (24%).
Pulmonary complications (pneumonia, ARDS or unexpected post-op ventilation) were very common (51%) and were associated with an even higher mortality (38%; and 83% of all deaths).
Mortality was unsurprisingly associated with older age ≥ 70 years, male sex, ASA ≥ 3, emergency surgery, major surgery, and malignancy.
Other interesting observations...
- Nonetheless 'lower-risk' groups still suffered significant 30-day mortality rates, eg. 30-49 year olds (6%), women (18%), ASA 1-2 (12%), no-comorbidities (7%).
- Being asymptomatic at admission did not have a significant protective effect (22% vs 27% mortality).
- Dyspnoea and/or sputum on admission were the only symptoms associated with worse outcomes.
- 20% of patients suffered ARDS, with a 63% mortality rate.
- Although emergency surgery was higher risk, elective surgery still carried a 19% mortality rate. Even minor surgery resulted in a 16% mortality rate!
- Even obstetrics (2% mortality) and gynaecology (5%) demonstrated orders of magnitude-higher mortality than expected.
- There was no statistically significant difference between local, regional or general anaesthesia.
- Pulmonary embolus was only seen in 2% at 30 days and when present did not appear to impact mortality.
Why such high post-operative COVID mortality?
The authors suggest this could be due to the combination of pro-inflammatory cytokine and immunosuppressive responses to surgery, and/or mechanical ventilation associated with general anaesthesia (although the later was not significantly associated with higher mortality).
Surgery for those with known or suspected COVID-19 should be avoided or delayed until after recovery from infection, as allowed by the underlying surgical pathology. When surgery cannot be delayed less-invasive surgery is preferable, and post-operative recovery should be closely monitored.
Keep in mind
Although RT-PCR testing was the main diagnostic test, in some settings clinical criteria (6%) and/or chest CT (7%) were instead used for diagnosis. Additionally, hospital data collection during a pandemic emergency carries higher risk of error, although this should not effect the broad validity of the research conclusions.summary
COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by WHO on March 11, 2020, the first non-influenza pandemic, affecting more than 200 countries and areas, with more than 5·9 million cases by May 31, 2020. Countries have developed strategies to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic that fit their epidemiological situations, capacities, and values. We describe China's strategies for prevention and control of COVID-19 (containment and suppression) and their application, from the perspective of the COVID-19 experience to date in China. ⋯ We believe that case finding and management, with identification and quarantine of close contacts, are vitally important containment measures and are essential in China's pathway forward. We describe the next steps planned in China that follow the containment effort. We believe that sharing countries' experiences will help the global community manage the COVID-19 pandemic by identifying what works in the struggle against SARS-CoV-2.