Background: COVID-19 pandemic presented an unexpected challenge for the surgical community in general and Minimally Invasive Surgery (MIS) specialists in particular. This document aims to summarize recent evidence and experts' opinion and formulate recommendations to guide the surgical community on how to best organize the recovery plan for surgical activity across different sub-specialities after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Methods: Recommendations were developed through a Delphi process for establishment of expert consensus. Domain topics were formulated and subsequently subdivided into questions pertinent to different surgical specialities following the COVID-19 crisis. Sixty-five experts from 24 countries, representing the entire EAES board, were invited. Fifty clinicians and six engineers accepted the invitation and drafted statements based on specific key questions. Anonymous voting on the statements was performed until consensus was achieved, defined by at least 70% agreement.
Results: A total of 92 consensus statements were formulated with regard to safe resumption of surgery across eight domains, addressing general surgery, upper GI, lower GI, bariatrics, endocrine, HPB, abdominal wall and technology/research. The statements addressed elective and emergency services across all subspecialties with specific attention to the role of MIS during the recovery plan. Eighty-four of the statements were approved during the first round of Delphi voting (91.3%) and another 8 during the following round after substantial modification, resulting in a 100% consensus.
Conclusion: The recommendations formulated by the EAES board establish a framework for resumption of surgery following COVID-19 pandemic with particular focus on the role of MIS across surgical specialities. The statements have the potential for wide application in the clinical setting, education activities and research work across different healthcare systems.
Keywords: COVID-19; Delphi consensus; EAES guidance; Minimally invasive surgery; Priority.