Acknowledging that COVID-19 may be here to stay, this paper has laid out a series of steps to prepare patients for elective surgery following their COVID illness. The evaluation, outlined in a The Journal Perioperative Medicine, is believed to be the first published protocol laying out a COVID-era path forward in American medicine. “We think this is groundbreaking,” said senior author Avital O’Glasser, M.D., associate professor of medicine (hospital medicine) in the OHSU School of Medicine. “We are hoping other clinics and surgical centers can use this to keep their patients safe.” Researchers combed through data published worldwide about health outcomes of patients who underwent surgery following illness.
Among the key recommendations:
- Minimum recovery time: The protocol calls for waiting a minimum of four weeks from the initial COVID-positive test for patients who had an asymptomatic infection and six to eight weeks for those who were more severely ill, “acknowledging that there is currently little data on the timeframe of recovery.”
- Evaluation: Patient history and physical assessment to determine any potential complications of surgery and to determine whether a patient has returned to their “pre-COVID” baseline health.
- Objective testing: The protocol includes guidance for specific tests such as blood work based a patient’s age, severity of symptoms, whether it’s a major or minor procedure, and whether it includes putting a patient under general anesthesia.
The protocol does not account for patients who have not recovered from the illness, known as COVID long-haulers. Co-first authors on the study are Naomi Bui, M.D., an OHSU resident in anesthesiology, and Mareli Coetzer, D.O., an OHSU resident in internal medicine.