Acta Orthopaedica et Traumatologica Turcica
Research Article

Is elective surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic safe? A multi-center prospective study in a high incidence area


Department of Orthopaedics Hospital Clínic, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain


Department of Orthopaedics, Parc Taulí Hospital Universitari, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Sabadell, Catalonia, Spain


Department of Orthopaedics, Hospital Universitari Vall d’Hebron, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain


Department of Orthopaedics, Hospital Universitari Mútua de Terrassa, Terrassa, Catalonia, Spain

AOTT 2022; 56: 14-19
DOI: 10.5152/j.aott.2021.21153
Read: 1771 Downloads: 284 Published: 01 January 2022

Objective: The aim of this study was to describe the evolution of patients admitted for elective orthopaedic surgery during the immediate post-COVID-19 peak of the pandemic.

Methods: This is a multi-center, observational study conducted in 8 high complexity hospitals of Catalonia, one of the highest COVID-19 incidence areas in Spain. We included patients ≥18 years of age undergoing elective surgery (total knee or hip arthroplasty, knee or hip revision arthroplasty, shoulder or knee arthroscopy, hand or wrist surgery, forefoot surgery, or hardware removal) after the COVID-19 peak (between May 5th and June 30th, 2020). The main exclusion criterion was a positive result for SARS-CoV-2 PCR within the 7 days before the surgery. The primary outcomes were postoperative complications within 60 days (+/-30) or hospital readmission due to a COVID-19 infection. Following the recommendations of the International Consensus Group (ICM), elective surgeries were re-started when the nationwide lockdown was lifted. Before the surgery, patients were contacted by phone to rule out any exposure to confirmed COVID-19 cases, a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay was performed in all patients 48-72 hours before hospital admission, and they were asked to maintain home confinement until the day of the surgery.

Results: 675 patients were included: 189 patients in the arthroplasty group (28%) and 486 in the ambulatory surgery group (72%). Mean [SD] age was 57.6 [15.3] years. The mean Charlson Comorbidity Index score was 2.21 (SD = 2.01, Min = 0, Max = 13). A total of 84 patients (12.75%) obtained an American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) score ≥ 3, showing no association between the ASA score and the risk of developing COVID-19 symptoms at follow-up (χ 2 (4) = 0.77, P = 0.94). The mean occupation rate of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients was 13% and the mean occupation rate of critical care beds for COVID-19 patients was 27% at the time of re-introducing elective surgeries. These were important rates to consider to decide when to reintroduce elective surgeries after lockdown. Surgical time, time of ischemia and intra-operative bleeding were not related with a higher risk of developing COVID-19 post-operatively (χ 2 (1) = 0.00, P = 0.98); (χ 2 (2) = 2.05, P = 0.36); (χ 2 (2) = 0.37, P = 0.83). Only 2 patients (0.3 %) presented with a suspected COVID-19 infection at follow-up. None of them presented with pneumonia or required confirmation by a reverse transcription PCR assay. Hospital re-admission was not needed for these patients.

Conclusion: The risk of developing COVID-19 during the immediate post-COVID-19 peak in a region with a high incidence of COVID-19 has not been proved. These data suggest that elective orthopaedic surgeries can be resumed when assertive and strict protocols are followed.

Level of Evidence: Level II, Prognostic Study

Cite this article as: Sastre S, Jornet-Gibert M, Yela-Verdú C, et al. Is elective surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic safe? A multi-center prospective study in a high incidence area. Acta Orthop Traumatol Turc 2022; 56(1):15–20.

ISSN 1017-995X EISSN 2589-1294