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Haffner MR, Le HV, Saiz AM, et al. Postoperative In-Hospital Morbidity and Mortality of Patients With COVID-19 Infection Compared With Patients Without COVID-19 Infection. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(4):e215697. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.5697
Several small studies have suggested that patients with positive test results for COVID-19 infection may experience worse perioperative outcomes and increased mortality after surgery.1-6 However, those studies were underpowered and lacked generalizability and comparative cohorts.1-6 This study used data from a national database to compare the clinical outcomes of surgical patients testing positive for COVID-19 infection with those of a matched sample of surgical patients testing negative for COVID-19 infection. Elucidating the comparative surgical risk profiles of patients with and without COVID-19 infection would help health care systems to improve preoperative guidelines and clinicians to better inform patients in shared medical decision making before surgery.
This was a retrospective cohort study of hospital discharge data from the Vizient Clinical Data Base (Vizient Inc). Patients 18 years or older with and without COVID-19 infection who underwent surgery from April 1 through November 30, 2020, were matched on a 1:1 ratio based on age and case mix index. Procedures among all surgical specialties were included. Patients who underwent gynecologic, obstetrical, or minor procedures (eg, tracheostomy, percutaneous cardiovascular procedures) were excluded. Inpatient mortality, complications listed in the Vizient Clinical Data Base, patient safety indicators, hospital-acquired conditions, and length of stay were compared between the cohorts. Subgroup analyses were performed to compare outcomes among public, private, and nonprofit hospital systems. The University of California, Davis Institutional Review Board approved the study and waived patient informed consent because the data were deidentified. This study followed the Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) reporting guideline.
The χ2 or Fisher exact test was used to evaluate the association between COVID-19 status and, if death occurred, the presence of complications listed in the Vizient Clinical Data Base and patient safety indicators. The Mann-Whitney test was performed to evaluate whether a difference in length of stay based on COVID-19 status existed. All statistical analyses were performed with SAS version 9.4 (SAS Institute Inc). Hypothesis tests were 2-sided and evaluated at a significance level of P < .05.
A total of 5470 surgical patients with positive COVID-19 test results were matched with 5470 surgical patients with negative COVID-19 test results during the same study period. Among all hospitals, there were more than double the number of deaths reported in the cohort of patients with COVID-19 (811 [14.8%]) compared with the cohort of patients without COVID-19 (388 [7.1%]) (P < .001). The rates of complications listed in the Vizient Clinical Data Base (818 [15.0%] vs 760 [13.9%]; P = .11) and median length of stay (10.0 [interquartile range (IQR), 1.3-36.4] vs 10.7 [IQR, 1.0-558.0] days; P = .86) did not differ significantly between the 2 groups. However, hospital-acquired conditions (110 [2.0%] vs 46 [0.8%]; P < .001) and patient safety indicators (183 [3.3%] vs 129 [2.4%]; P = .002) were higher in patients with COVID-19 (Table 1).
Within each hospital ownership type (public, private, nonprofit), more deaths occurred in the group with COVID-19 compared with the group without COVID-19 in public hospitals (146 [15.8%] vs 46 [4.8%]; P < .001) and nonprofit hospitals (631 [14.7%] vs 326 [7.5%]; P < .001), but not in private hospitals (34 [14.1%] vs 16 [9.4%]; P = .15). Among surgical patients with COVID-19, there were no differences in mortality rates, complications listed in the Vizient Clinical Data Base, hospital-acquired conditions, or patient safety indicators among public, private, or nonprofit hospitals (Table 2).
In this retrospective cohort study of 10 940 surgical patients, the findings suggest that COVID-19 infection positivity was an independent risk factor for increased perioperative mortality but not complications. Specifically, the overall mortality rate in the cohort with COVID-19 (14.8%) was more than double that in the cohort without COVID-19 (7.1%). To our knowledge, this study represents the largest comparative cohort study between surgical patients testing positive for COVID-19 and those testing negative for the virus, and it is the first to compare outcomes among different hospital settings. This study has 2 main limitations. Patient outcomes could not be compared by clinical severity of COVID-19 infection. Furthermore, we could not determine specific types of surgery or whether the surgery was elective, urgent, or emergent.
Our study findings suggest that COVID-19 infection positivity is an independent risk factor for surgical mortality. In addition to using scarce medical resources and placing health care workers at risk of exposure, surgery for patients with COVID-19 poses a safety risk given the increased mortality rate observed in this study. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and surges, we need to balance patients’ surgical needs with COVID-19–specific risks in the setting of a strained health care system. Surgical patients with COVID-19 should be informed of their higher in-hospital mortality risk. More important, 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.
Accepted for Publication: February 17, 2021.
Published: April 12, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.5697
Open Access: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the CC-BY License. © 2021 Haffner MR et al. JAMA Network Open.
Corresponding Author: Max R. Haffner, MD, Department of Orthopaedics, University of California, Davis, 2315 Stockton Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95817 (email@example.com).
Author Contributions: Dr Haffner had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.
Concept and design: Haffner, Le, Wolinsky.
Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: Haffner, Le, Saiz, Han, Fine, Klineberg.
Drafting of the manuscript: Haffner, Le, Saiz, Klineberg.
Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: All authors.
Statistical analysis: Le, Han, Fine, Klineberg.
Administrative, technical, or material support: Le, Saiz, Klineberg.
Supervision: Haffner, Le, Saiz, Wolinsky.
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Klineberg reported receiving personal fees from DePuy Synthes, Stryker Corporation, and Medicrea/Medtronic, and honoraria and a fellowship grant from AO Spine outside the submitted work. No other disclosures were reported.
Funding/Support: The statistical support for the project described was supported by grant UL1 TR001860 from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health.
Role of the Funder/Sponsor: The funding sources had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.
Disclaimer: The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
Additional Contributions: We thank Daniel Black (UC Davis Health) for his effort in procuring the data used in this study. He was not compensated for his assistance.
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