Involuntary ambulatory triage during the COVID-19 pandemic - A neurosurgical perspective.

Research paper by Harald H Krenzlin, Christoph C Bettag, Veit V Rohde, Florian F Ringel, Naureen N Keric

Indexed on: 21 Jun '20Published on: 20 Jun '20Published in: PloS one


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic poses an unprecedented challenge to health-care systems around the world. As approximately one-third of the world´s population is living under "lockdown" conditions, medical resources are being reallocated and hospital admissions are limited to emergencies. We examined the decision-making impact of these actions and their effects on access to hospital treatment in patients with neurosurgical conditions. This retrospective cohort study analyzes hospital admissions of two major neurosurgical services in Germany during the nationwide lockdown period (March 16th to April 16th, 2020). Spinal or cranial conditions requiring immediate hospital admission and treatment constituted emergencies. A total of 243 in-patients were treated between March 16th and April 16th 2020 (122 patients at the University Medical Center Mainz, 121 patients at the University Medical Center Göttingen). Of these, 38.0±16% qualified as emergency admission. Another 1,688 admissions were reviewed during the same periods in 2018 and 2019, providing a frame of reference. Overall, emergency admissions declined by 44.7±0.7% during lockdown. Admissions for cranial emergencies fell by 48.1±4.44%, spinal emergencies by 30.9±14.6%. Above findings indicate that in addition to postponing elective procedures, emergency admissions were dramatically curtailed during the COVID-19 lockdown. As this surely is unexpected and unintended, reasons are undoubtedly complex. As consequences in morbidity and mortality are still unpredictable, efforts should be made to accommodate all patients in need of hospital access going forward.