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