Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the management of gallstone surgery: A Swedish population-based study

Gabriel Sandblom, Johanna Österberg, Peder Rogmark, Carl J. Drott, Erik Haraldsson, Kaveh Khodakaram, Lise Lott Prebner, Stefan Redéen, Eva Lena Syrén, Maria Söderström, Lars Enochsson

Forskningsoutput: TidskriftsbidragArtikel i vetenskaplig tidskriftPeer review


Background: The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has had a significant impact on healthcare delivery. As resources are reallocated, surgery for benign conditions such as gallstone disease is often given low priority. We do not know how this has affected the risk of patients with uncomplicated gallstone disease to develop acute cholecystitis, biliary pancreatitis, or obstructive jaundice. Methods: The study was based on the population-based Swedish Register of Gallstone Surgery and Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography. The period prior to the first cases of COVID-19 in Sweden, that is, April 2015–March 2020, was compared to the period April 2020–March 2021 during the pandemic. Stratification was made for factors potentially related to priority decisions. Results: Altogether, 78,211 procedures were performed during the period of the study. The ratio of procedures performed during April 2020–March 2021 in the previous 5 years was 0.960 (p = 0.113). The ratio of procedures on patients aged <65 years was 0.945 (p = 0.008), on patients aged 65–80 years was 0.964 (p = 0.423), on patients aged >80 years was 1.336 (p = 0.025), on men was 1.001 (p = 0.841), on women was 0.934 (p = 0.006), on procedures completed laparoscopically was 0.964 (p = 0.190), on procedures completed with open approach was 0.659 (p = 0.044), on acute procedures was 1.218 (p = 0.016), on planned procedures was 0.791 (p < 0.001), on procedures performed for biliary colic was 0.808 (p < 0.001), on procedures performed for acute cholecystitis was 1.274 (p = 0.012), for biliary pancreatitis was 1.192 (p = 0.037), and for obstructive jaundice was 1.366 (p = 0.008). Conclusions: The COVID-19 has had a great impact on how gallstone surgery has been organized over the last 2 years. The decreased number of planned procedures probably reflects the reallocation of resources during the pandemic. However, whether the increasing number of acute procedures is the result of postponed planned surgery or a continuation of a long-term trend toward more acute surgery remains unanswered. Further studies are needed to assess and evaluate how this has affected public health and health economics.

TidskriftScandinavian Journal of Surgery
StatusPublished - 2022 feb.

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