Since the COVID-19 pandemic began over a year ago, death rates in US hospitalized patients decreased from 19.7% in April 2020 to 9.3% in November, according to a study published last week in JAMA Network Open. While this may reflect improved treatments and standards of care, a JAMA Network Open research letter published this week highlights how COVID-19 can still complicate healthcare: 15% of COVID-positive patients died after surgery, compared with 7% of those without COVID. Also, hospital-acquired conditions such as catheter-associated urinary tract infections and safety indicators like post-operative hemorrhaging were both higher in those with COVID-19 (2.0% vs 0.8% and 3.3% vs 2.4%, respectively).

Postponing surgery should be recommended for patients with a positive preoperative COVID-19 test result when possible unless surgical intervention is absolutely necessary for life- or limb-saving measures.

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