April 16, 2020
As the world’s healthcare communities continue to lead efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, non-essential procedures in a number of fields, including spine care, have been scaled back to preserve resources and protect patients. Speaking to Spinal News International, North American Spine Society (NASS) president William Sullivan (Vanderbilt University, Nashville, USA) reflects on the impact that the pandemic has had on the spine community to date, and what its lasting legacy could be.
“The COVID-19 outbreak has impacted everything in spine care, including pain procedures and surgery, but also everything in medicine,” Sullivan tells Spinal News International, commenting on the emotional, physical and economic toll that the virus has across the healthcare profession. The curtailment of elective surgeries in countries including the USA and more widely, has been well documented. However, Sullivan notes that while this is an important step to help mitigate the spread of the virus it presents challenges of its own. The reduction of elective procedures is one he sees a lasting potential impact from the COVID-19 pandemic in spine care.
“The difficulty is that it depends what your definition of “essential” is,” he says. “When people first started talking about what is considered elective surgery, there were questions such as whether or not to do outpatient elective surgery on someone when they may have a lot of pain, but is not life or limb threatening. Does that count as elective if the procedure allows them to function better?