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Tran LD, Rose L, Urech T, Dalton A, Wu S, Vashi AA. Short-term Effects of Canceled Elective Procedures Due to COVID-19: Evidence From the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System. Annals of surgery. 2021 Jul 1; 274(1):45-49.
OBJECTIVE: To determine whether delayed or canceled elective procedures due to COVID-19 resulted in higher rates of ED utilization and/or increased mortality. SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA: On March 15, 2020, the VA issued a nationwide order to temporarily pause elective cases due to COVID-19. The effects of this disruption on patient outcomes are not yet known. METHODS: This retrospective cohort study used data from the VA Corporate Data Warehouse. Surgical procedures canceled due to COVID-19 in 2020 (n = 3326) were matched to similar completed procedures in 2018 (n = 151,863) and 2019 (n = 146,582). Outcome measures included 30- and 90-day VA ED use and mortality in the period following the completed or canceled procedure. We used exact matching on surgical procedure category and nearest neighbor matching on patient characteristics, procedure year, and facility. RESULTS: Patients with elective surgical procedures canceled due to COVID-19 were no more likely to have an ED visit in the 30- [Difference: -4.3% pts; 95% confidence interval (CI): -0.078, -0.007] and 90 days (-0.9% pts; 95% CI: -0.068, 0.05) following the expected case date. Patients with cancellations had no difference in 30- (Difference: 0.1% pts; 95% CI: -0.008, 0.01) and 90-day (Difference: -0.4% pts; 95% CI: -0.016, 0.009) mortality rates when compared to similar patients with similar procedures that were completed in previous years. CONCLUSIONS: The pause in elective surgical cases was not associated with short-term adverse outcomes in VA hospitals, suggesting appropriate surgical case triage and management. Further study will be essential to determine if the delayed cases were associated with longer-term effects.