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Surgery risky without prior COVID-19 vaccination: Study

The study stated that patients should receive COVID-19 vaccine before surgery to reduce the risk of postoperative death.

• March 24, 2021
A patient undergoing eye surgery used to illustrate the story

Patients about to undergo elective surgery are a high-risk group for COVID-19 vaccination, Prof. Adesoji Ademuyiwa of the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, has said.

Mr Ademuyiwa is the Nigeria lead in a study conducted by 15,000 surgeons and anaesthetists from across 116 countries. The study was commissioned by the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.

He noted in the result of the study released on Wednesday that “it is imperative to consider patients about to undergo elective surgery as a high-risk group.”

Mr Ademuyiwa was also quoted the result to have said that: “during the first wave of the pandemic, up to 70 per cent of elective surgeries were postponed.

“This resulted in an estimated 28 million procedures being delayed or cancelled worldwide.

“Whilst surgery volumes have started to recover in many countries, on-going disruption is likely to continue throughout 2021, particularly in the event of countries experiencing further waves of COVID-19.’’

The study stated that patients should receive the COVID-19 vaccine before surgery to reduce the risk of postoperative death.

It said patients waiting for elective surgery should get the COVID-19 vaccine ahead of the general population, potentially helping to avoid thousands of postoperative deaths linked to the virus.

According to the study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), United Kingdom, “between 0.6 per cent and 1.6 per cent of patients develop COVID-19 infections after elective surgery.

“Patients who develop COVID-19 infections are at between four and eight-fold increased risk of death in the 30 days following surgery.

“For example, whereas patients aged 70 years and above undergoing cancer surgery would usually have a 2.8 per cent mortality rate; this increases to 18.6 per cent if they develop COVID-19 infections.

“Based on the high risks that surgical patients face, scientists calculate that vaccination of surgical patients is more likely to prevent COVID-19 related deaths than vaccines given to the population at large, particularly among the over-70s and those undergoing surgery for cancer.

“Overall, the scientists estimate that global prioritisation of pre-operative vaccination for elective patients could prevent an additional 58,687 COVID-19-related deaths in one year.

“This could be particularly important for low-income and middle-income countries.

“In those countries, mitigation measures such as nasal swab screening and COVID-free surgical pathways, which can reduce the risk of complications related to the virus, are unlikely to be universally implemented.”


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