Elective Gastro Surgeries Can Be Postponed Amid COVID-19

By Dr Nagabhushan JS, Senior Consultant Gastrointestinal & Colorectal Surgeon, BGS Gleneagles Global Hospital

The coronavirus pandemic so far has infected millions and has taken the lives of thousands in a short span of four months. What seemed to be just an innocuous outbreak in China has now taken over the world. All the major economies have crashed. There are severe restrictions in many hard affected countries and most of them are under complete lockdown, and unfortunately contemplating further lockdown as the cases continue to rise. Hospitals are packed with ill patients and healthcare professionals are working round the clock to treat the infected and save lives.

It is known that elderly people, people with low immunity or an underlying condition such as kidney disease, diabetes are at a higher risk of COVID-19. The complications in such cases are more severe as compared to the healthier and younger including the risk of dying. Therefore elective and unnecessary surgeries should be avoided to prevent unnecessary complications.

Elective surgeries cover a wide range of procedures, from cancer tumor removal to optional procedures like cosmetic surgeries. Unless and until the condition poses a risk to a patient’s life and the need for surgery is absolute, these surgeries must be deferred until a safer time is available.

One of the many reasons why such elective surgeries must be called off includes the uncertainty of the patient’s COVID-19 status. In other words, since testing is not universal, COVID -19 positivity will invariably pose a threat to the patients’ health and life, not forget to mention the additional risk to the exposed health workers and doctors involved in the care. Assuming that people who want to undergo these elective procedures are normal, there’s still a threat to the patient’s life as the chances of them contracting COVID later will be 100%.

Elective surgeries are generally safe and the mortality rate is almost negligible. Under these circumstances (COVID-19 pandemic), elective surgery mortality is likely to be around 20%. Simply put the death rate of one in five is very high and unacceptable wherein the death rate was almost negligible before the pandemic. Hence healthcare professional bodies & Doctors are advocating the postponement of these elective procedures.

Surgeries including hernia, varicose veins, simple lumps and bumps removal, and all the other category 1 surgeries must be deferred, as the patients can tolerate these issues for some more time without posing a threat to their lives. If there is an emergency condition that needs surgery, then the doctors will take a call along with the consensus from the patient to proceed with surgery. This should be done with utmost care with adequate safety measures in place before and after the procedure. The patients and their families must be counselled and prepared for a possible worst outcome which includes death.

Dr Nagabhushan JS
Senior Consultant Gastrointestinal & Colorectal Surgeon

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author. They do not reflect the opinions or views of the organization.

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