Elective spinal surgery “should be curtailed” in light of Coronavirus outbreak

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minimally invasive surgeryGlobal efforts to tackle the spread of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) have seen spine care providers advised to cut back to all but essential procedures to free up resources for healthcare providers in response to the outbreak.

The US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued recommendations that all elective, non-essential medical and surgical procedures be delayed during the outbreak, reasoning that the measure would preserve personal protective equipment (PPE), beds, and ventilators.

For non-urgent spinal surgery procedures healthcare providers in the US have been told to consider postponing surgery if the patient’s condition is not thought to be immediately life threatening.

“The reality is clear and the stakes are high: we need to preserve personal protective equipment for those on the front lines of this fight,” said CMS administrator Seema Verma, in announcing the measure.

Similarly, in the UK, spinal surgeons have been asked to curtail elective procedures “to ensure that essential trauma and orthopaedic care continues with minimum burden on the NHS”.

A clinical guide for the management of patients requiring spinal surgery during the Coronavirus pandemic, published by NHS England late last week advises that healthcare centres should avoid “unproductive” attendances at hospitals, and that senior decision-making should reduce or even prevent the need for further attendances by patients.

In its guidance, NHS England stated: “Spinal services may not seem to be in the frontline with COVID-19, but we do have a key role to play and this must be planned. In response to pressures on the NHS, the elective component of our work may be curtailed. However, the non-elective patients will continue to need care. We should seek the best local solutions to continue the proper management of these emergency and urgent patients while protecting resources for the response to COVID19.”

The global pandemic has led to the cancellation of a number of spine meetings that had been scheduled for the first half of 2020. This includes the International Meeting on Advanced Spine Techniques (IMAST) that had been due to take place in Athens, Greece next month (April 1–4), SpineWeek 2020 have announced that the event, which had been due to take place in Melbourne, Australia over 24 April–1 May, and the annual Global Spine Congress (GSC), which had been due to take place this year between 20–23 May in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil).

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