Surgery and COVID-19 – Procedural Changes for Your Safety

Orthopaedic & Spine Center
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Boyd W. Haynes III, MD

Governor Ralph Northam has reopened Virginia hospitals for outpatient elective surgeries as of May 1, 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has peaked in the Commonwealth and citizens have helped to “flatten the curve” by self-quarantining and using PPE.  Hospitals were not overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases and the expected number of hospitalizations did not materialize due to everyone’s efforts. Now that we can do surgery again, what changes should you expect?  Here is what we know thus far:

Patient, Physician and Hospital Staff COVID-19 Testing

Moving forward, all surgical patients will be tested for COVID-19 prior to surgery, as will their surgeons and physician assistants.  The time frame may vary between hospitals, but for our patients, that will be 72 hours before the scheduled surgery.  This testing will be done in a drive-through setting that will help to keep COVID-19 positive patients out of the interior of the hospital, thereby reducing the risk for transmission.  Each hospital has adopted their own guidelines for employee testing to ensure patient safety and that of all their employees. 

Ambulatory Surgery

As hospitals ramp up to normal capacity in all areas, elective surgical patients will only be scheduled for ambulatory surgery, meaning they will go home the same day of their surgery.  Those patients who have co-morbidities (conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure) which put them at greater risk for needing an inpatient stay may be asked to wait a while longer for their surgeries.  Inpatient surgeries will be reserved for those at greater risk, i.e., emergency life-saving surgery, trauma patients, transplants, cardiac surgeries, etc.  As the hospitals determine their capacity going forward and IF we see a resurgence in the COVID-19 cases requiring hospitalization, this will be sure to change.

Personal Protective Equipment

Before COVID-19, most surgeons wore masks only in the operating room.  Now you will see masks on every hospital employee and physician in all phases of the surgical process, from check-in with the registration staff through discharge.  They may also wear other protective gear such as gowns, gloves or face shields. You will be asked to wear a mask as you check-in and get ready for your surgery.  Post-operatively, you will be asked to wear a mask as you leave the hospital.

Family Members and Friends

In the days prior to COVID-19, whomever accompanied you to the hospital for your procedure would be allowed to visit you before surgery in the pre-op unit, be required to wait within the confines of the hospital during your procedure, and would be allowed to sit with you as you recovered in the post-op unit, until you were ready to be discharged.

Now, visitors to the hospital will be greatly restricted, again to ensure the safety of all patients and hospital staff.  Your family member or friend may be asked to wait in an area where strict social distancing guidelines can be followed and they will be required to wear a mask. Alternatively, they may be asked to wait in their car or outdoor waiting areas provided by the hospital.  Each hospital will implement their own guidelines and will adapt them as the crisis ends. 

You, as the patient or caregiver, need to be prepared for these changes.  Having surgery can be a scary experience and you may be anxious about going into the operating room without seeing your loved one immediately beforehand.  Perhaps you will be caring for someone who is having surgery. Your surgeon and the surgical team understand this and we’ll do everything we can to help allay your concerns. Knowing what to expect, before your surgery or that of a family member, can help to prepare everyone involved for a great recovery.

 

Make an appointment with Dr. Haynes or another provider by clicking the “Request Appointment” button below or by calling (757) 596-1900.