Heart surgeries fell 53% during pandemic, early research shows

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused cardiac surgery volumes to fall drastically nationwide, according to early research presented Jan. 30 at the Society of Thoracic Surgeons' virtual annual meeting. 

Researchers at the University of California San Francisco analyzed data on 717,103 adult patients who underwent cardiac surgery between Jan. 1, 2018, and June 30, 2020. They also examined data on 20 million COVID-19 patients using data from Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University to assess how the pandemic has affected surgery levels.

Adult cardiac surgery volume fell 53 percent nationwide in 2020 compared to 2019 volume. There were also 65 percent fewer elective cardiac cases and 40 percent fewer nonelective cases than in 2019. 

The Mid-Atlantic region had one of the largest drops in overall case volume at 71 percent. In the New England region, this figure sat at 63 percent. Researchers also found mortality rates for adult cardiac procedures increased in these regions during the pandemic.

"The pandemic has changed the world as we know it, causing a dramatic drop in adult cardiac surgery volume and worsening patient outcomes," study author Tom Nguyen, MD, chief of cardiothoracic surgery at UCSF, said in a news release. 

The research has not yet been peer-reviewed. 

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