Studies indicate that coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection before or soon after operations increases mortality, but they do not comment on the appropriate timing for interventions after diagnosis.
We sought to determine what the safest time would be for COVID-19 diagnosed patients to undergo major operative interventions.
High-risk operations, between January 2020 and May 2021, were identified from the Veterans Affairs COVID-19 Shared Data Resource. Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes were used to exact match COVID-19 positive cases (n=938) to negative controls (n=7235). Time effects were calculated as a continuous variable and then grouped into 2-week intervals. The primary outcome was 90-day, all-cause postoperative mortality.
Ninety-day mortality in cases and controls was similar when the operation was performed within 9 weeks or longer after a positive test; but significantly higher in cases versus controls when the operation was performed within 7 to 8 weeks (12.3% vs 4.9%), 5 to 6 weeks (10.3% vs 3.3%), 3 to 4 weeks (19.6% vs 6.7%), and 1 to 2 weeks (24.7% vs 7.4%) from diagnosis. Among patients who underwent surgery within 8 weeks from diagnosis, 90-day mortality was 16.6% for cases versus 5.8% for the controls (P<0.001). In this cohort, we assessed interaction between case status and any symptom (P=0.93), and case status and either respiratory symptoms or fever (P=0.29), neither of which were significant statistically.
Patients undergoing major operations within 8 weeks after a positive test have substantially higher postoperative 90-day mortality than CPT-matched controls without a COVID-19 diagnosis, regardless of presenting symptoms.