Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on surgical care in the Netherlands

Michelle R De Graaff, Rianne N M Hogenbirk, Yester F Janssen, Arthur K E Elfrink, Ronald S L Liem, Simon W Nienhuijs, Jean Paul P M De Vries, Jan Willem Elshof, Emiel Verdaasdonk, Jarno Melenhorst, H L Van Westreenen, Marc G H Besselink, Jelle P Ruurda, Mark I Van Berge Henegouwen, Joost M Klaase, Marcel Den Dulk, Mark Van Heijl, Johannes H Hegeman, Jerry Braun, Daan M VoetenFranka S Würdemann, Anne Loes K Warps, Anna J Alberga, J Annelie Suurmeijer, Erman O Akpinar, Nienke Wolfhagen, Anne Loes Van Den Boom, Marieke J Bolster-van Eenennaam, Peter Van Duijvendijk, David J Heineman, Michel W J M Wouters, Schelto Kruijff*, J N Helleman, C L Koningswoud-terhoeve, E Belt, J A B Van Der Hoeven, G M H Marres, F Tozzi, E M Von Meyenfeldt, R R J Coebergh, H.P. Van Den Braak, A M Rijken, R Balm, F Daams, C Dickhoff, W J Eshuis, S S Gisbertz, H R Zandbergen, R H Geelkerken, F R Halfwerk, Dutch CovidSurg Collaborative Study Group

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
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The COVID-19 pandemic caused disruption of regular healthcare leading to reduced hospital attendances, repurposing of surgical facilities, and cancellation of cancer screening programmes. This study aimed to determine the impact of COVID-19 on surgical care in the Netherlands.


A nationwide study was conducted in collaboration with the Dutch Institute for Clinical Auditing. Eight surgical audits were expanded with items regarding alterations in scheduling and treatment plans. Data on procedures performed in 2020 were compared with those from a historical cohort (2018–2019). Endpoints included total numbers of procedures performed and altered treatment plans. Secondary endpoints included complication, readmission, and mortality rates.


Some 12 154 procedures were performed in participating hospitals in 2020, representing a decrease of 13.6 per cent compared with 2018–2019. The largest reduction (29.2 per cent) was for non-cancer procedures during the first COVID-19 wave. Surgical treatment was postponed for 9.6 per cent of patients. Alterations in surgical treatment plans were observed in 1.7 per cent. Time from diagnosis to surgery decreased (to 28 days in 2020, from 34 days in 2019 and 36 days in 2018; P < 0.001). For cancer-related procedures, duration of hospital stay decreased (5 versus 6 days; P < 0.001). Audit-specific complications, readmission, and mortality rates were unchanged, but ICU admissions decreased (16.5 versus 16.8 per cent; P < 0.001).


The reduction in the number of surgical operations was greatest for those without cancer. Where surgery was undertaken, it appeared to be delivered safely, with similar complication and mortality rates, fewer admissions to ICU, and a shorter hospital stay.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberznac301
Pages (from-to)1282-1292
Number of pages10
JournalBritish journal of surgery
Issue number12
Early online date6 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


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