South Florida Hospital News – Dr. Leone: COVID Raises Questions about Which Surgeries Are Elective

When mandates were issued postponing elective surgeries to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, preserve personal protective equipment and medical resources, many crucial surgical procedures were suspended. As an orthopedic surgeon who operates on patients suffering from painful hip and knee problems, I understand why these restrictions were enacted but still felt distressed that these surgeries were considered “elective.”

Pain combined with loss of mobility can be all-consuming and cause tremendous stress both physically and mentally for the person suffering as well as their spouse or significant other. While my patients understood and empathized with the reasons their long-awaited surgeries were canceled as hospitals braced for the COVID-19 emergency, many didn’t feel their surgeries were “elective” because they were suffering as their conditions worsened.

Some patients have shared with me their mixed emotions, wanting to delay their surgery for the good of our country and for those individuals who are really sick, but not wanting to suffer and potentially have their result compromised because they must wait. It’s hard to feel their surgery is “elective” when they are suffering and knowing surgery can often bring immediate and dramatic relief with improved mobility. Added to this is their concern that they will be safe from COVID-19 while getting their surgery.

I think proceeding with their care is appropriate as long as doing so does not prevent or deny anyone with COVID-19 the care they need. When we received the go-ahead to resume surgeries, I prioritized the most critical patients, but only those who could go home the day of their surgery. We are once again taking care of everyone, some of whom have waited many months for care. My patients feel safe and confident knowing that we’ve put huge emphasis on strict safety protocols. While most go home the day of their surgery, some are admitted or even go to a rehabilitation center after discharge. All are tremendously thankful to reclaim their quality of life, which none of us really considers “elective.”

Dr. William Leone, head of The Leone Center for Orthopedic Care at Holy Cross Health, can be reached at (954) 954-489-4575.

Published in the South Florida Hospital News