As the COVID-19 pandemic is charting its course into 2022, as health care providers, we have had to adapt and adjust to the transient and shifting environment. Testing for COVID-19 has been in place, and is now part of the standard for preoperative work-up. In addition, covid testing will likely be part of screening any surgical procedure for the foreseeable future.
The challenge of pandemic control is the large pockets of populations in the US and worldwide that do not have protection against the virus and are not vaccinated. Vaccination provides the only proven long-term protection against COVID-19 infection and its long-term persistent health effect. In addition, the complication rate reported in scientific journals is negligible compared to the complication and death rate from the COVID-19 infection.
There are implications of covid infection and general anesthesia published in peer-reviewed journals. The increased risk of general anesthesia after covid infection is related to the severity of the initial infection and the extent of the treatment required, and the persistence of the post covid symptoms, including shortness of breath, fatigue, and laboratory finding elevated inflammatory markers. Long after resolution of the acute COVID-19 symptoms, the most common persistent complaints are fatigue, shortness of breath, Joint and chest pain; and all these increase the risk of post-operative complications (Carfì et al., 2020)
The required delay for surgery may be as short as 2-4 weeks to as long as six months or longer if the persistent symptoms are present. Surgery may not be avoidable in a critical life-threatening situation and may be necessary even with a much-increased risk of complication (Collaborative, 2020). Recovery post-COVID-19 may not be complete with the resolution of the initial symptoms (Dexter et al., 2020)
Recent publications and scientific presentations have also shown the protection that weight loss surgery and maintained weight loss provide in those who come down with the COVID-19 infection (Aminian et al., 2021). However, the rate of weight gain, lack of weight loss is worse for weight loss surgical patients post COVID-19 disorder (Bullard et al., 2021; Conceição et al., 2021). Furthermore, patients with COVID-19 infection post weight loss are at a higher risk of malnutrition (di Filippo et al., 2021; Kikutani et al., 2021). Up to 40% of patients have malnutrition if hospitalized with COVID (Anker et al., 2021).
To summarize, Weight loss and weight loss surgery reduce the severity of the initial COVID-19 infection. However, it increases malnutrition risk, requiring nutritional support and surgical interventions in non-responsive cases.
Aminian, A., Fathalizadeh, A., Tu, C., Butsch, W. S., Pantalone, K. M., Griebeler, M. L., Kashyap, S. R., Rosenthal, R. J., Burguera, B., & Nissen, S. E. (2021). Association of prior metabolic and bariatric surgery with severity of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in patients with obesity. Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases, 17(1). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.soard.2020.10.026
Anker, M. S., Landmesser, U., von Haehling, S., Butler, J., Coats, A. J. S., & Anker, S. D. (2021). Weight loss, malnutrition, and cachexia in COVID-19: facts and numbers. In Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle (Vol. 12, Issue 1). https://doi.org/10.1002/jcsm.12674
Bullard, T., Medcalf, A., Rethorst, C., & Foster, G. D. (2021). Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on initial weight loss in a digital weight management program: A natural experiment. Obesity, 29(9). https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.23233
Carfì, A., Bernabei, R., Landi, F., & Group, for the G. A. C.-19 P.-A. C. S. (2020). Persistent Symptoms in Patients After Acute COVID-19. JAMA, 324(6), 603–605. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2020.12603
Conceição, E., de Lourdes, M., Ramalho, S., Félix, S., Pinto-Bastos, A., & Vaz, A. R. (2021). Eating behaviors and weight outcomes in bariatric surgery patients amidst COVID-19. Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases, 17(6).
Dexter, F., Elhakim, M., Loftus, R. W., Seering, M. S., & Epstein, R. H. (2020). Strategies for daily operating room management of ambulatory surgery centers following resolution of the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Clinical Anesthesia, 64. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclinane.2020.109854
Di Filippo, L., De Lorenzo, R., D’Amico, M., Sofia, V., Roveri, L., Mele, R., Saibene, A., Rovere-Querini, P., & Conte, C. (2021). COVID-19 is associated with clinically significant weight loss and risk of malnutrition, independent of hospitalisation: A post-hoc analysis of a prospective cohort study. Clinical Nutrition, 40(4). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2020.10.043
Kikutani, T., Ichikawa, Y., Kitazume, E., Mizukoshi, A., Tohara, T., Takahashi, N., Tamura, F., Matsutani, M., Onishi, J., & Makino, E. (2021). COVID-19 infection-related weight loss decreases eating/swallowing function in schizophrenic patients. Nutrients, 13(4). https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13041113
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