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Assessing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on emergency department use for patients undergoing cancer-directed surgeries

Eskander A, Li Q, Yu J, Hallet J, Coburn N, Dare A, Chan KKW, Singh S, Parmar A, Earle CC, Lapointe-Shaw L, Krzyzanowska MK, Hanna TP, Finelli A, Louie AV, Look-Hong N, Irish JC, Witterick I, Mahar A, Urbach DR, Enepekides D, Sutradhar R; on behalf of the Pandemic—Ontario Collaborative in Cancer Research (POCCR). Curr Oncol. 2022; 29(3):1877-89. Epub 2022 Mar 10. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/curroncol29030153


Emergency department (ED) use is a concern for surgery patients, physicians and health administrators particularly during a pandemic. The objective of this study was to assess the impact of the pandemic on ED use following cancer-directed surgeries. This is a retrospective cohort study of patients undergoing cancer-directed surgeries comparing ED use from 7 January 2018 to 14 March 2020 (pre-pandemic) and 15 March 2020 to 27 June 2020 (pandemic) in Ontario, Canada. Logistic regression models were used to (1) determine the association between pandemic vs. pre-pandemic periods and the odds of an ED visit within 30 days after discharge from hospital for surgery and (2) to assess the odds of an ED visit being of high acuity (level 1 and 2 as per the Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale). Of our cohort of 499,008 cancer-directed surgeries, 468,879 occurred during the pre-pandemic period and 30,129 occurred during the pandemic period. Even though there was a substantial decrease in the general population ED rates, after covariate adjustment, there was no significant decrease in ED use among surgical patients (OR 1.002, 95% CI 0.957–1.048). However, the adjusted odds of an ED visit being of high acuity was 23% higher among surgeries occurring during the pandemic (OR 1.23, 95% CI 1.14–1.33). Although ED visits in the general population decreased substantially during the pandemic, the rate of ED visits did not decrease among those receiving cancer-directed surgery. Moreover, those presenting in the ED post-operatively during the pandemic had significantly higher levels of acuity.

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