Surgical Procedures During COVID - 19: A Guide for Patients

May 05, 2020

COVID - 19

To ensure health care resources are available for critically ill COVID-19 patients, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend delaying all non-emergency procedures. 

Why Is My Surgery Delayed?

Many surgical procedures, such as cataract surgery, knee or hip replacements, and most reconstructive surgeries, are not an emergency. After evaluating your condition, your doctor can decide whether or not to proceed with your surgery. Some reasons for your surgeries getting postponed are:


  • All non-emergency procedures need personal protective equipment like gloves, masks, and gowns, which are short in supply right now and are urgently required by health care providers who are taking care of COVID-19 patients.
  • Patients or their caretakers might have an undiagnosed case of COVID-19, which can get transmitted to others in the hospital.
  • All healthcare workers are focused on treating COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized and critically ill. 
  • Operating rooms cannot be utilized for elective procedures right now as ventilators that can save the lives of many COVID-19 patients are kept in these rooms.

When Will My Surgery Be Rescheduled?

Rescheduling your surgery will depend on many factors, such as your health status, need for an operation, availability of the surgical team, and how long it takes to resolve the COVID-19 crisis. You can ask your surgeon for more information on the rescheduling of your surgery.


What About My Follow-Up Visits In Case I Had Surgery or Cancer?

In such cases, you should call in advance to see if your doctor is available to provide virtual care to you over the computer or phone. 


What If My Child or I Have an Emergency and Need to Visit the Hospital?

In case of an emergency, call 911. They will first screen you for the symptoms of COVID-19 and take precautionary action from there.


What If I Have a Fever or Cough and Need to Go to the Hospital?

If you have a fever along with respiratory symptoms, you will be asked to wear a mask as a precaution to potentially being infected with COVID-19. If you are already tested positive for COVID-19 or are waiting for the COVID-19 test results, you will be placed in isolation, and your health care team will care for you as best as possible while wearing protective equipment, including gloves, gown, mask and eye shield.


Can I Have Visitors If I Am Hospitalized?

At this time, visitors may be prohibited from nursing homes and hospitals to prevent them from bringing COVID-19 into the facility and also to avoid their risk of exposure to the virus.


Can You Explain How Hospitals Go About Treating People Who Are Not Infected with COVID-19? 

If you are having surgery and have no symptoms of COVID-19, you will be admitted to a separate section of the hospital away from people who are infected with the coronavirus. You and your health care team should still practice all CDC recommendations, like social distancing, frequent hand washing, and avoiding visitors. Operating rooms will also follow all the surface cleaning guidelines by the CDC and AORN as a precaution.


What Are the Precautions I Should Take to Get Discharged from the Hospital?

At the time of the discharge, if you had close contact with someone who has COVID-19, you may need to be self-quarantined for 14 days with daily monitoring of body temperature and other respiratory symptoms. 


How Do I Care for Myself When I Am Home?

The American College of Surgeons website has some training programs which can guide you to practice self-care at home. These include feeding tube care, wound care, ostomy care, and central line care. The website also provides a link to various government resources. 


Keep in mind that postponing elective surgical procedures does not mean you can’t undergo them once COVID-19 decreases. Be sure to communicate with your health care provider regarding your surgery once this crisis is resolved.

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