Importance: There are limited data on mortality and complications rates in patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) who undergo surgery.
Objective: To evaluate early surgical outcomes of patients with COVID-19 in different subspecialties.
Design, setting, and participants: This matched cohort study conducted in the general, vascular and thoracic surgery, orthopedic, and neurosurgery units of Spedali Civili Hospital (Brescia, Italy) included patients who underwent surgical treatment from February 23 to April 1, 2020, and had positive test results for COVID-19 either before or within 1 week after surgery. Gynecological and minor surgical procedures were excluded. Patients with COVID-19 were matched with patients without COVID-19 with a 1:2 ratio for sex, age group, American Society of Anesthesiologists score, and comorbidities recorded in the surgical risk calculator of the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program. Patients older than 65 years were also matched for the Clinical Frailty Scale score.
Exposures: Patients with positive results for COVID-19 and undergoing surgery vs matched surgical patients without infection. Screening for COVID-19 was performed with reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction assay in nasopharyngeal swabs, chest radiography, and/or computed tomography. Diagnosis of COVID-19 was based on positivity of at least 1 of these investigations.
Main outcomes and measures: The primary end point was early surgical mortality and complications in patients with COVID-19; secondary end points were the modeling of complications to determine the importance of COVID-19 compared with other surgical risk factors.
Results: Of 41 patients (of 333 who underwent operation during the same period) who underwent mainly urgent surgery, 33 (80.5%) had positive results for COVID-19 preoperatively and 8 (19.5%) had positive results within 5 days from surgery. Of the 123 patients of the combined cohorts (78 women [63.4%]; mean [SD] age, 76.6 [14.4] years), 30-day mortality was significantly higher for those with COVID-19 compared with control patients without COVID-19 (odds ratio [OR], 9.5; 95% CI, 1.77-96.53). Complications were also significantly higher (OR, 4.98; 95% CI, 1.81-16.07); pulmonary complications were the most common (OR, 35.62; 95% CI, 9.34-205.55), but thrombotic complications were also significantly associated with COVID-19 (OR, 13.2; 95% CI, 1.48-∞). Different models (cumulative link model and classification tree) identified COVID-19 as the main variable associated with complications.
Conclusions and relevance: In this matched cohort study, surgical mortality and complications were higher in patients with COVID-19 compared with patients without COVID-19. These data suggest that, whenever possible, surgery should be postponed in patients with COVID-19.