The CovidSurg Collaborative Research Study based on 12 weeks of peak disruption to hospital services due to Covid-19 has predicted that around 28 million elective surgeries across the globe could be cancelled or postponed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This has led to patients facing a lengthy wait for their health issues to be resolved.

Elective surgery means routine surgery which does not need an immediate address, and the patient has some time to explore their treatment options.

The study also mentioned that common conditions like gallbladder stones, hernias or tumours often worsen and result in more complications when necessary surgery is postponed.

Elective and emergency surgery

Dr Pradeep Chowbey, Chairman, Max Institute of Minimal Access, Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery, New Delhi, who is not related to the study, said: “Owing to Covid-19, cancelling elective surgery at a large scale will have a substantial impact on patients and cumulative, potentially devastating consequences for health systems. Delaying time-sensitive elective operations may lead to deteriorating health, worsening quality of life, and unnecessary deaths.”

He added: “There is a risk that delayed treatment of benign conditions as a result of pandemic-related cancellations will lead to deterioration in individual patients’ conditions, increasing disability and reducing their ability to work.”

Chowbey has noted that in the UK, 50 per cent of surgeries are elective and 50 per cent emergency. However, in India, 80 per cent of surgeries are done in private care, wherein 90 per cent are elective and 10 per cent emergency. While the overall 12-week cancellation rate would be 72.3 per cent in the world.

Globally, 81.7 per cent of operations for benign conditions, 37.7 per cent of cancer operations, and 25.4 per cent of elective caesarean sections would be cancelled or postponed.

The researchers in the study suggested that a very large number of operations have been cancelled or postponed owing to disruption caused by Covid-19. And, governments should mitigate against this major burden on patients by developing recovery plans and implementing strategies to restore surgical activity safely.

Adding further, Dr Chowbey said: “On account of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, management of non-Covid conditions should not be compromised. Especially, in many benign conditions, which can be easily managed by elective surgeries, may present with severe life-threatening complications if ignored at early stages.”