28 Million Elective Surgeries Worldwide Estimated to be Delayed by COVID-19

A study published in the British Journal of Surgery estimates that 28.4 million elective surgeries worldwide could be canceled or postponed in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, with 2.4 million more cancellations for each additional week of hospital service disruption.

Findings were based on information about elective surgery plans collected from 359 hospitals across 71 countries over a 12-week period of peak disruption. The data was then used create a statistical model to estimate surgery delay numbers in 190 countries.

The model estimates that up to three quarters of planned surgeries would be canceled worldwide through the peak of hospital service disruptions. About 2.3 million cancer surgeries could be canceled or postponed, and orthopedic procedures are predicted to be the most affected, with 6.3 million estimated cancellations.

Delaying elective surgeries reduces patients’ risk of exposure to COVID-19 and allows hospitals to increase their bandwidth in response to the pandemic, but these cancelations put financial strain on hospitals, cause health care job losses, and create new health issues for patients from postponed care.

Sources: British Journal of Surgery, May 12, 2020; HealthDay, May 18, 2020.