Background: Elective orthopaedic operations were suspended at the start of the COVID-19 lockdown. Three pathways were created to allow patients to undergo urgent elective operations in NHS Tayside as soon as it was deemed safe to do so.

Methods: We examined elective orthopaedic activity in NHS Tayside during and immediately after the Scottish lockdown. Elective operations performed between 27 March 2020 and 10 August 2020 were included and compared with cases performed between 27 March and 10 August in both 2018 and 2019. Primary outcomes were 30-day mortality, 30-day complications, and nosocomial infection rates of COVID-19.

Findings: Fewer elective operations were performed in 2020 (258) compared with 2019 (1196) and 2018 (1261). The rate of nosocomial infection in the 2020 cohort was 0%. The 30-day mortality rate was 0%. Over 98% of patients agreed to undergo surgery after a detailed consenting process.

Interpretation: We were able to re-start a safe elective orthopaedic service in the early stages of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, compatible with the guidelines set by the Royal College of Surgery of England and the British Orthopaedic Association. Our findings will serve to reassure regions with sufficient resources that it is acceptable to restart elective surgery for urgent priority cases. They may provide a template for planned surgical care in the event of further pandemics.


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Cite as

Davies, P., Sinnerton, R., MacInnes, A., Faulkner, A., Hutchison, P., Greensmith, T., Roberts, L. & Clift, B. 2020, 'Re-starting elective orthopaedic services in NHS Tayside during the COVID-19 pandemic', Surgeon. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.surge.2020.10.002

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Last updated: 17 June 2022
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