Proposed delay for safe surgery after COVID-19

Joshua G. Kovoor, N. Ann Scott, David R. Tivey, Wendy J. Babidge, David A. Scott, Vanessa S. Beavis, Jen Kok, Andrew D. MacCormick, Robert T.A. Padbury, Thomas J. Hugh, Peter J. Hewett, Trevor G. Collinson, Guy J. Maddern, Mark Frydenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Long-term effects after COVID-19 may affect surgical safety. This study aimed to evaluate the literature and produce evidence-based guidance regarding the period of delay necessary for adequate recovery of patients following COVID-19 infection before undergoing surgery. Methods: A rapid review was combined with advice from a working group of 10 clinical experts across Australia and New Zealand. MEDLINE, medRxiv and grey literature were searched to 4 October 2020. The level of evidence was stratified according to the National Health and Medical Research Council evidence hierarchy. Results: A total of 1020 records were identified, from which 20 studies (12 peer-reviewed) were included. None were randomized trials. The studies comprised one case–control study (level III-2 evidence), one prospective cohort study (level III-2) and 18 case-series studies (level IV). Follow-up periods containing observable clinical characteristics ranged from 3 to 16 weeks. New or excessive fatigue and breathlessness were the most frequently reported symptoms. SARS-CoV-2 may impact the immune system for multiple months after laboratory confirmation of infection. For patients with past COVID-19 undergoing elective curative surgery for cancer, risks of pulmonary complications and mortality may be lowest at 4 weeks or later after a positive swab. Conclusion: After laboratory confirmation of SARS-CoV-2 infection, minor surgery should be delayed for at least 4 weeks and major surgery for 8–12 weeks, if patient outcome is not compromised. Comprehensive preoperative and ongoing assessment must be carried out to ensure optimal clinical decision-making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)495-506
Number of pages12
JournalANZ Journal of Surgery
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • COVID-19
  • inflammation
  • long-term
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • surgery
  • symptom


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