Association Between the SARS-Cov2 Pandemic and Pediatric Surgical Consultations

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Article, Peer-reviewed

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Introduction: The purpose of this study was to evaluate changes to acute pediatric surgical needs during the early phase of the SARS-Cov2 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study of all in-hospital pediatric surgery consultations placed through the consult paging system at a single institution. We compared both median and absolute differences for emergency department (ED), operative, and hospital outcomes between March, April, and May of 2019 versus 2020.

Results: There were 225 in-hospital pediatric surgery consults in 2019 and 123 in 2020. Overall, mean age was 8.4-y (standard deviation = 6.4) and 60% were male. Initial vitals were similar between years and a similar proportion of patients underwent laboratory and imaging tests. In 2020, children spent a median of 1.1-h fewer in the ED (95% confidence interval = -2.2, -0.1) and 0.9-h fewer in the ED before surgical consultation (95% confidence interval = -1.5, -0.3) compared to 2019. Patients required significantly more procedures in the ED in 2020 (n = 16, 14.3%) than 2019 (n = 13, 6.2%) (P = 0.02), most commonly laceration repairs. In 2019, 46 children (20.4% of all consults in 2019) presented with appendicitis and 27 children (22.0% of all consults in 2020) in 2020. Complicated appendicitis was more common in 2020 (n = 12, 44.4%) than 2019 (n = 9, 19.6%) (P = 0.02). Two children (7.4%) were managed nonoperatively with a drain in 2020 compared to none in 2019 (P = 0.13). Median time from surgical consultation to surgery, median operative time, and median time to discharge was similar for children with appendicitis in both years.

Conclusions: The early phase of the pandemic was associated with more efficient triaging in the ED, but more ED procedures and more complex surgical pathology.

Keywords: Acute surgery; Appendicitis; COVID-19; Pediatric.