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Four things to consider when rescheduling elective surgery

For the past few months, patients around the country have had to postpone elective surgery due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re one of them, you’re probably wondering when you may hear from your doctor about rescheduling that surgery. As states begin easing restrictions, hospitals and clinics have been preparing to welcome patients back for procedures that can help relieve pain and improve their quality of life.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), in partnership with other medical associations, has developed a roadmap to help health care organizations safely resume elective surgeries.

“Physicians, hospitals and health systems are eager to resume elective surgeries, and patients are looking to have the procedures they planned before the pandemic put everything on hold,” said American Society of Anesthesiologists President Mary Dale Peterson, MD, MSHCA, FACHE, FASA. “Health systems can ensure these procedures resume safely by following ASA guidance.”

How will you know when it’s safe?

ASA’s checklist of safety measures can help ensure patients’ comfort in moving forward with surgery:

1. COVID-19 cases are decreasing

ASA and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) advise that it is safe to resume elective procedures when the number of new COVID-19 cases in the area has decreased every day for the last two weeks.

2. All patients are tested

Before you have surgery, you should be tested for COVID-19. Healthcare providers will also ask you if you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days, or if you have experienced unexplained fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat or loss of taste or smell in the last two weeks.

While it may be tempting to shrug off any symptoms or potential exposure, it is extremely important to be honest, for your safety and the safety of your surgical team. Patients who have viral infections — of any kind — are at higher risk for complications from surgery.

3. Your procedure will be performed in a safe environment

Surgical procedures are being performed in locations separate from where COVID-19 patients are being treated, such as an ambulatory care center or a different part of the hospital. Keeping surgeries separate from COVID-19 treatment areas protects both you and your surgical team.

4. Every facility has created a COVID-19 surgical care plan

ASA recommends that all health care facilities adopt COVID-19-related policies to address every stage of surgical care, from before the procedure through post-discharge care planning.

Physicians are working to create the safest environment possible for you to have your needed surgery. Keep in mind that in many areas, elective surgeries have not been performed for over a month, meaning that there will be a backlog, so it may take time to schedule your procedure.

Be informed about your upcoming surgery

Beyond COVID-19 safety, you can learn more about outpatient surgery and review Preparing for Surgery: an Anesthesia Checklist to be sure you are fully prepared for your long-awaited elective procedure.

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