The safety of paediatric surgery between COVID-19 surges: an observational study.
Despite the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, elective paediatric surgery must continue safely through the first, second and subsequent waves of disease. This study presents outcome data from a children’s hospital in north-west England, the region with the highest prevalence of COVID-19 in England. Children and young people undergoing elective surgery isolated within their household for 14 days, then presented for real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction testing for severe acute respirator syndrome coronavirus disease-2 (SARS-CoV-2) within 72 hours of their procedure (or rapid testing within 24 hours in high-risk cases), and a screening questionnaire on admission. Planned surgery resumed on 26 May 2020; in the four subsequent weeks there were 197 patients for emergency and 501 for elective procedures. A total of 488 out of 501 (97.4%) elective admissions proceeded, representing a 2.6% COVID-19-related cancellation rate. There was no difference in the incidence of SARS-CoV-2 amongst children and young people who had or hadn’t isolated for 14 days (p > 0.99). One out of 685 (0.1%) children who had surgery re-presented to hospital with symptoms potentially consistent with SARS-CoV-2 within 14 days of surgery. Outcomes were similar to those in the same time period in 2019 for length of stay (p = 1.0); unplanned critical care admissions (p = 0.59); and 14-day hospital readmission (p = 0.17). However, the current cohort were younger (p = 0.037); of increased complexity (p < 0.001) and underwent more complex surgery (p < 0.001). The combined use of household self-isolation, testing and screening questionnaires has allowed the re-initiation of elective paediatric surgery at high volume whilst maintaining pre-COVID-19 outcomes in children and young people undergoing surgery. This may provide a model for addressing the ongoing challenges posed by COVID-19, as well as future pandemics.