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INTRODUCTION: This study reports the 30-day mortality, SARS-CoV-2 complication rate and SARS-CoV-2-related hospital processes at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic in the UK. METHODS: This national, multicentre, cohort study at 74 centres in the UK included all patients undergoing any surgery below the elbow at the peak of the UK pandemic. The primary outcome measure was 30-day postoperative mortality and was assessed in all enrolled patients. The secondary outcomes were SARS-CoV-2 complication rates and overall complication rates. A clinician survey relating to SARS-CoV-2 safety processes was carried out for each participating centre. RESULTS: This analysis includes 1093 patients who underwent upper limb surgery from the 1 to 14 April 2020 inclusively. The overall 30-day mortality was 0.09% (1 pre-existing SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia) and the mortality of day case surgery was zero. Most centres (96%) screened patients for symptoms prior to admission, only 22% routinely tested for SARS-CoV-2 prior to admission. The SARS-CoV-2 complication rate was 0.18% (2 pneumonias) and the overall complication rate was 6.6% (72 patients). Both SARS-CoV-2-related complications occurred in patients who had been hospitalised for a prolonged period before their surgery and a total of 19 patients (1.7%) were SARS-CoV-2 positive. CONCLUSIONS: The SARS-CoV-2-related complication rate for upper limb surgery even at the peak of the UK pandemic was low at 0.18% and the mortality was zero for patients admitted on the day of surgery. Urgent surgery should not be delayed pending the results of SARS-CoV-2 testing. Routine SARS-CoV-2 testing for day case upper limb surgery not requiring general anaesthesia may be excessive and have unintended negative impacts.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Qual Saf

Publication Date



evaluation methodology, management, safety culture, standards of care, surgery