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The effect of the COVID pandemic lockdown measures on surgical emergencies: experience and lessons learned from a Greek tertiary hospital

  • Pikoulis, Emmanouil1
  • Koliakos, Nikolaos1
  • Papaconstantinou, Dimitrios1
  • Pararas, Nikolaos1
  • Pikoulis, Andreas1
  • Fotios-Christos, Stavratis1
  • Nastos, Constantinos1
  • Bagias, Georgios1
  • Boutati, Eleni2
  • Coccolini, Federico3
  • Catena, Fausto4
  • 1 National and Kapodistrian University of Athens Medical School, Rimini Str. 1, Athens, 12462, Greece , Athens (Greece)
  • 2 National and Kapodistrian University of Athens Medical School, Athens, Greece , Athens (Greece)
  • 3 Pisa University Hospital, Pisa, Italy , Pisa (Italy)
  • 4 Maggiore Hospital, Parma, Italy , Parma (Italy)
Published Article
World Journal of Emergency Surgery
Springer (Biomed Central Ltd.)
Publication Date
May 07, 2021
DOI: 10.1186/s13017-021-00364-1
Springer Nature


BackgroundThe COVID-19 pandemic caused a rise in healthcare demands leading to significant restructuring of hospital emergency departments worldwide. The aim of the present study is twofold: firstly, to discern any differences in regard to reason for surgical emergency department (SED) attendance and hospital admission during the pandemic and pre-pandemic eras in Greece, and secondly, to assess the impact of the lockdown measures implemented during the pandemic on SED patient attendance.MethodsSince the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in Greece (1 March 2020) and up to 15 December 2020, the charts of all adult patients arriving at the SED of the third surgical department of the “Attikon” University Hospital (a tertiary referral center for surgical and COVID-19 cases) were retrospectively reviewed and broken down in four periods reflecting two nationwide lockdown (period A 1/3/2020 to 30/4/2020 and period D 16/10/2020 to 15/12/2020) and two interim (period B 1/5/2020 to 15/6/2020 and period C 15/9/2020 to 30/10/2020) periods. Demographic and clinical data were compared to those obtained from the same time periods of the year 2019.ResultsThe total number of patients attending the SED decreased by 35.9% during the pandemic (from 2839 total patients in 2019 to 1819 in 2020). During the first lockdown, there was statistically significant reduction of motor vehicle accidents (p=0.04) and torso injuries (p=0.01). Contrarily, the rate of head injuries (p<0.001) and abdominal pain (p=0.04) were significantly increased. The same effect was observed regarding the rate of hospital admissions (p=0.002), although in terms of absolute numbers, admissions remained unchanged. During the second lockdown, there was a reduction in the number of perianal abscess cases (p=0.04) and hernia-related problems (p=0.001). An increase in the rate of fall injuries was also demonstrable (p=0.02). Overall, application of the lockdown led to a significant decrease in minor (p<0.001) and torso (p=0.001) injuries.ConclusionThe burden of the new COVID-19 disease has left a noticeable imprint in the function of emergency departments worldwide. In Greece, SED attendance was significantly reduced during the pandemic, an effect that was even more pronounced during the lockdown implementation; nevertheless, the overall rate of hospital admissions remained the same, denoting that patient care was not altered.

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