How the COVID-19 pandemic impacted orthopedic surgery efficiency


While reports from countries including Italy and the United Kingdom showed a dramatic decrease in the efficiency of orthopedic surgery operating rooms during the COVID-19 pandemic, a Nov. 10 study published in the American Journal of Managed Care showed minimal changes in efficiency in U.S.-based operating rooms. 

The study was authored by researchers from Nashville, Tenn.-based Vanderbilt University, who looked at 14,856 orthopedic surgeries performed at a single academic medical center between Dec. 1, 2019, and Oct. 31, 2021. Studied cases included 1,853 surgeries performed before the onset of COVID-19, 1,299 surgeries performed in the peak of the pandemic, and 11,704 surgeries performed post-peak COVID-19 restrictions. 

The study authors looked at the effect on efficiency of pandemic-related factors like donning extra personal protective equipment, increased infection control measures, and last-minute staffing changes due to illness. Although there was change in orthopedic operating room efficiency during the onset of the pandemic, the absolute change was minimal. 

During the initial stages of the pandemic, hospitals postponed all nonessential surgical procedures. The peak-restriction period occurred for about 90 days, according to the study. 

The study determined that the proportion of orthopedic surgeries delayed by 15 minutes was not drastically different during the COVID-19 pandemic, but more orthopedic surgeries began early pre-COVID-19. 

Additionally, while there was a slight increase in turnover time delay at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it stabilized and the turnover time remained not significantly different. 

The study authors noted that the institution's protocols, such as pre-surgical testing and limiting the number of employees in the OR at certain times, may have reduced disruptions. All in all, the study suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic had insignificant impacts on orthopedic operating room efficiency in the U.S. 

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