People infected with COVID-19 who need surgery have much higher odds of dying soon afterward, a new study finds.
Infected patients who had surgery died at rates nearly equal to those of the sickest COVID-19 patients in intensive care units, the researchers found.
For the study, the investigators looked at data on more than 1,100 surgical patients with COVID-19 at 235 hospitals in 24 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and North America.
Overall, 24% died within 30 days. Deaths were high among four subgroups: elective surgery (19%); emergency surgery (26%); minor surgery such as hernia repair (16%); and major surgical procedures such as hip or cancer surgery (27%), the findings showed.
Deaths rates were higher among men (28%) than women (18%), and among patients aged 70 and older (34%) than among those under 70 (14%).
Other risk factors included having a severe pre-existing medical condition or having cancer surgery, major procedures and emergency surgery, the study authors said.
One month after surgery, 51% of patients developed pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome or needed ventilation, according to the report.
“The decision in most hospitals to postpone elective surgery was made to both protect our patients as well as increase capacity to take care of the COVID-19 patients during the peak of the pandemic,” said study co-author Dr. Haytham Kaafarani, a surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
“The high mortality and morbidity rates of the elective surgery patients in this study is proving that the decision was sound, as we would normally expect mortality for patients having minor or elective surgery to be under 1% to 3%,” he added in a hospital news release.
The findings were published online recently in The Lancet.
For more about COVID-19, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.