The impact of coronavirus disease 2019 on surveillance colonoscopies in South Australia

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Background and Aim: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) global pandemic has affected elective procedures, including colonoscopy, worldwide. Delayed colorectal cancer surveillance may increase cancer risk. This study aimed to determine the impact of COVID-19 on the proportion of surveillance colonoscopies booked and completed and the extent to which that surveillance was delayed. Methods: This was a retrospective analysis of colonoscopy data during the 3 months (April–June 2020) when clinical services were most affected by COVID-19 in South Australia compared to the same period in 2019. Data on colonoscopies and responses to surveillance recall letters were reviewed to determine the numbers and proportions of colonoscopies that were delayed. Results: During 2020, the total number of colonoscopies decreased by 51.1% (n = 569) compared to 2019 (n = 1164). In 2019, 45.5% (n = 530) of colonoscopies were completed for surveillance, but this proportion decreased to 32.0% (n = 182) during 2020, an overall decrease in the number of surveillance colonoscopies of 65.6%. Of surveillance colonoscopies that were due in 2020, 46.1% (134/291) were delayed >6 months, a significant increase compared to 2019 (19.3%; 59/306, P < 0.001). A decrease in response to surveillance recall letters was only observed in patients ≥75 years, with more nonresponders (51.6%) in 2020 compared to that observed in 2019 (25.6%, P = 0.03). Conclusions: Significant delays in surveillance colonoscopies occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic in South Australia. These effects are likely to be in areas more severely affected by the pandemic. Planning for post-COVID-19 colonoscopy capacity is required to avoid cancer progression due to delays in surveillance colonoscopies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)486-492
Number of pages7
JournalJGH Open
Issue number4
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • colorectal neoplasms
  • coronavirus disease
  • surveillance


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