Psychological Effects of Delay In Surgery During COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 pandemic halted life and has affected non-essential medical procedures including elective surgeries. This was done to minimize the spread of disease. Qualitative research conducted by Mary Byrnes at the Department of Surgery at Michigan Medicine, to explore experiences of patients whose elective cardiovascular surgeries have been postponed/canceled in the first six weeks of the announcement of pandemic worldwide.

In this study, 47 individuals (whose cardiovascular surgery was postponed) were interviewed using hermeneutical phenomenological qualitative design. Questions like what undergoing surgery meant to them, the effects of postponing operations, whether the existence of COVID-19 complicated their thoughts about surgery was asked. She interviewed participants for 10 days, in which she heard stories about fear, suffering, and altruism (as reported by patients). En masse the interview demonstrates the intense impact of postponing cardiac and vascular surgeries because of coronavirus pandemic. Since most of the surgeries were serious and vigorous, where patients thought that it’s the only cure, so uncertainty about the surgical procedure was problematic for many. On the other side, many patients preferred waiting to avoid catching COVID-19.

The significant cause of mortality in the USA had been cardiovascular conditions like ischemic heart disease, complications of hypertension, during the COVID pandemic there has been a spike in mortalities related to such conditions, primarily because patients avoided health care during the pandemic. Byrnes stressed that the health care policies during the pandemic have to be reconsidered and discussed, she further recommended: “We have to think how we talk to patients in terms of the fact that they think they’re going to die – and they might.”

This study provides a basis for the hospital leadership to make better decisions during this current postpone of surgeries, because of the latest coronavirus surge, by creating opportunities for supplemental communication and support of cardiovascular patients.

The director of vascular surgery at Michigan Medicine stressed that.” we need to be upfront and accessible.”, he added that patients should be directly well-communicated about the cancellation of their procedure and the surgeons should be made available to talk to them for reassurance.

This study recognized many components of patient experience, like the quality of life, anticipated benefits of surgery, risks of contracting COVID, etc. evidence provided in the current study can help prioritization of postponed cases, rescheduling the backlog, and triage moving forward. In the future, the healthcare system should devise and execute interventions like support systems and social work resources, which could reduce the impact of delay on the well-being of patients because the postponement in surgery isn’t a mere inconvenience but instead has a substantial impact on the emotional and psychological health of the patient.


COVID-19, Medicine, Delaying surgeries, psychological health, cardiovascular surgery

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