Surgery triage during the COVID-19 pandemic

Wendy J. Babidge, David R. Tivey, Joshua G. Kovoor, Kristin Weidenbach, Trevor G. Collinson, Peter J. Hewett, Thomas J. Hugh, Robert T.A. Padbury, Nicola M. Hill, Guy J. Maddern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, caused the COVID-19 global pandemic. In response, the Australian and New Zealand governments activated their respective emergency plans and hospital frameworks to deal with the potential increased demand on scarce resources. Surgical triage formed an important part of this response to protect the healthcare system's capacity to respond to COVID-19. Method: A rapid review methodology was adapted to search for all levels of evidence on triaging surgery during the current COVID-19 outbreak. Searches were limited to PubMed (inception to 10 April 2020) and supplemented with grey literature searches using the Google search engine. Further, relevant articles were also sourced through the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons COVID-19 Working Group. Recent government advice (May 2020) is also included. Results: This rapid review is a summary of advice from Australian, New Zealand and international speciality groups regarding triaging of surgical cases, as well as the peer-reviewed literature. The key theme across all jurisdictions was to not compromise clinical judgement and to enable individualized, ethical and patient-centred care. The topics reported on include implications of COVID-19 on surgical triage, competing demands on healthcare resources (surgery versus COVID-19 cases), and the low incidence of COVID-19 resulting in a possibility to increase surgical caseloads over time. Conclusion: During the COVID-19 pandemic, urgent and emergency surgery must continue. A carefully staged return of elective surgery should align with a decrease in COVID-19 caseload. Combining evidence and expert opinion, schemas and recommendations have been proposed to guide this process in Australia and New Zealand.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1558-1565
Number of pages8
JournalANZ Journal of Surgery
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • COVID-19
  • health resources
  • personal protective equipment
  • surgery
  • surgical specialties
  • triage


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