Background: As part of the effort to control the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) outbreak, strict emergency measures, including prolonged national curfews, have been imposed. Even in countries where healthcare systems still functioned, patients avoided visiting emergency departments (EDs) because of fears of exposure to COVID-19.
Objective: To describe the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on admissions of surgical patients from the ED and characteristics of urgent operations performed.
Methods: A prospective registry study comparing all patients admitted for acute surgical and trauma care between 15 March and 14 April 2020 (COVID-19) with patients admitted in the parallel time a year previously (control) was conducted.
Results: The combined cohort included 606 patients. There were 25% fewer admissions during the COVID-19 period (P < 0.0001). The COVID-19 cohort had a longer time interval from onset of symptoms (P < 0.001) and presented in a worse clinical condition as expressed by accelerated heart rate (P = 0.023), leukocyte count disturbances (P = 0.005), higher creatinine, and CRP levels (P < 0.001) compared with the control cohort. More COVID-19 patients required urgent surgery (P = 0.03) and length of ED stay was longer (P = 0.003).
Conclusions: During the COVID-19 epidemic, fewer patients presented to the ED requiring acute surgical care. Those who did, often did so in a delayed fashion and in worse clinical condition. More patients required urgent surgical interventions compared to the control period. Governments and healthcare systems should emphasize to the public not to delay seeking medical attention, even in times of crises