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Covid-19 will lead to the cancellation of 28 million surgeries worldwide

Published May 15, 2020



Over 28 million elective surgeries across the globe could be cancelled as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, revealed a study published in the

British Journal of Surgery


This is while an estimated 146 000 surgeries could be cancelled in South Africa, 12 000 of them being cancer procedures.

According to the

CovidSurg Collaborative

, it is projected that 28.4 million elective surgeries worldwide will be cancelled or postponed in 2020. The projections are based on a 12-week period of peak disruption to hospital services due to Covid-19.

Data collected detailed information from surgeons across 359 hospitals in 71 countries. This data was then statistically modelled to estimate totals for cancelled surgeries across 190 countries.

Researchers projected that 72.3percent of scheduled surgeries would be cancelled, most cancelled surgeries will be for non-cancer conditions.

It’s suggested that Orthopaedic procedures will be cancelled most frequently. The researcher said 6.3 million orthopaedic surgeries could be cancelled worldwide over a 12-week period.

It is forecasted that globally, 2.3 million cancer surgeries will be cancelled or postponed.

Researchers said the cancellations will create a backlog that will need to be cleared after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Each additional week of disruption to hospital services results in an additional 12 000 surgeries being cancelled. Following the surge in the epidemic, we are going to need a continuous assessment of the situation, so that we can plan a safe


resumption of elective surgery at the earliest opportunity,” said University of Cape Town’s

Professor Bruce Biccard.

Birccard is the Second Chair at the university’s Department of Anaesthesia and Perioperative


While senior lecturer at the NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Global Surgery at the University of Birmingham, Aneel Bhangu, said the cancellations were to reduce the risk of patients being exposed to COVID-19 in hospital and to support the wider hospital response.

“Although essential, cancellations place a heavy burden on patients and society. Patients' conditions may deteriorate, worsening their quality of life as they wait for rescheduled surgery. In some cases, for example cancer, delayed surgeries may lead to a number of unnecessary deaths,” said Bhangu.

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