My Patients Ask — How long should I delay elective surgery after COIVD?

I actually didn’t know the answer to the question of how long patients who test positive for COVID should delay elective surgery. Now we have an answer.

A recent study recommends waiting for elective surgery for at least seven weeks.

MedPage Today reports researchers found in a large international study that delaying surgery “for at least 7 weeks after a positive coronavirus test was associated with lower mortality risk compared with no delay.”

The British researchers found that among 3,127 patients with a preoperative COVID diagnosis, mortality was highest in those who had surgery the soonest after testing positive.

The 30-day postoperative mortality rates were:

  • 9.1% for surgery within 2 weeks of diagnosis (104 of 1,138)
  • 6.9% for surgery 3–4 weeks after testing positive (32 of 461)
  • 5.5% for surgery 5–6 weeks after diagnosis (18 of 326)
  • 2.0% for surgery 7 or more weeks post-diagnosis (24 of 1,202)

When compared with the adjusted 30-day mortality of 1.5% for surgery without COVID infection, only the group with at least a 7-week interval between diagnosis and surgery didn’t have a significantly elevated risk of death at 30 days.

“Whilst cut-offs beyond 7 weeks were not formally tested, they are unlikely to offer a significant advantage, since adjusted mortality rates for delay intervals ≥7 weeks were broadly stable,” the researchers wrote.

However, those with ongoing COVID-19 symptoms had elevated surgical risk even after waiting 7 weeks or more compared with those whose symptoms had resolved or who had been asymptomatic (6.0% vs 2.4% and 1.3%, respectively).

“Our results suggest that, where possible, surgery should be delayed for at least 7 weeks following SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the group concluded. “Patients with ongoing symptoms at ≥7 weeks from diagnosis may benefit from further delay.”

The findings were published in the journal Anaesthesia.

This blog was accurate as of the day of posting. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly evolves and the scientific community’s understanding of the novel coronavirus and the COVID vaccine develops, the information above may have changed since it was last updated. While I aim to keep all of my blogs on COVID and the COVID vaccine up to date, please visit online resources provided by the CDC, WHO, and your local public health department to stay informed on the latest news.

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2021. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.


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