Covid-19 tied to raised risk of post-op death

  • Investigators looked at data on surgical patients with Covid-19 in Europe, Africa, Asia and North America
  • They concluded that patients undergoing any surgery while infected with coronavirus have a much greater chance of dying after the operation
  • Elective surgeries were, therefore, postponed in hospitals to protect these people, not only to keep beds free for Covid-19 patients


People infected with Covid-19 who need surgery have much higher odds of dying soon afterwards, a new study finds.

Infected patients who had surgery died at rates nearly equal to those of the sickest Covid-19 patients in intensive care units, the researchers found.

For the study, the investigators looked at data on more than 1 100 surgical patients with Covid-19 at 235 hospitals in 24 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and North America.

Overall, 24% died within 30 days. Deaths were high among four subgroups: elective surgery (19%); emergency surgery (26%); minor surgery such as hernia repair (16%); and major surgical procedures such as hip or cancer surgery (27%), the findings showed.

A sound decision

Deaths rates were higher among men (28%) than women (18%), and among patients aged 70 and older (34%) than among those under 70 (14%).

Other risk factors included having a severe pre-existing medical condition or having cancer surgery, major procedures and emergency surgery, the study authors said.

One month after surgery, 51% of patients developed pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome or needed ventilation, according to the report.

"The decision in most hospitals to postpone elective surgery was made to both protect our patients as well as increase capacity to take care of the Covid-19 patients during the peak of the pandemic," said study co-author Dr Haytham Kaafarani, a surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

"The high mortality and morbidity rates of the elective surgery patients in this study is proving that the decision was sound, as we would normally expect mortality for patients having minor or elective surgery to be under 1% to 3%," he added in a hospital news release.

The findings were published online recently in The Lancet.

Image credit: iStock

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