London, May 15 : Researchers, including one of Indian-origin, have revealed that more than 28 million elective surgeries across the globe 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.
The study has projected that based on a 12-week period of peak disruption to hospital services due to Covid-19, 28.4 million elective surgeries worldwide will be cancelled or postponed in 2020.
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.
“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 into intensive care units,” said study researcher Aneel Bhangu, Senior Professor at the University of Birmingham in the UK.
“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,” Bhangu explained.
For the findings, the research team 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. 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. In the UK, the National Health Service advised hospitals to cancel most elective surgeries for 12 weeks. It is estimated that this will result in 516,000 cancelled surgeries, including 36,000 cancer procedures.
These cancellations will create a backlog that will need to be cleared after the Covid-19 disruption ends. “Each additional week of disruption to hospital services results in an additional 43,300 surgeries being cancelled, so it is important that hospitals regularly assess the situation so that elective surgery can be resumed at the earliest opportunity,” said study researcher Dr Dmitri Nepogodiev.