The ongoing “coronavirus disease 19” (COVID-19) pandemic has had a strong effect on the delivery of surgical care worldwide. Elective surgeries have been canceled or delayed in order to reallocate resources to the treatment of COVID-19 patients. Currently, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on bariatric and metabolic surgical practice remains unclear.
An internet-based online survey was performed among bariatric surgeons worldwide. The survey was sent to bariatric surgeons via the International Bariatric Club Facebook group and by electronic mail via the International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity and metabolic disorders (IFSO) secretariat to members of the associated national IFSO societies.
One hundred sixty-nine (n = 169) bariatric surgeons participated in the survey. The majority of the respondents postponed preoperative upper gastrointestinal tract endoscopies, appointments in the outpatient clinic and bariatric operations. Most surgeons performed video calls for follow-up appointments instead of meeting the patients in the outpatient clinics. Laparoscopy was still the preferred treatment for surgical emergencies, but a trend towards conservative treatment of acute appendicitis and acute cholecystitis was shown. Rapid preoperative COVID-19 testing availability was poor; therefore, routine screening of emergency bariatric cases was not widely provided. A wide variance occurred regarding precautions and personal protection equipment among the participants.
The COVID-19 pandemic showed a strong impact on bariatric surgical practice regarding surgical and outpatient planning as well as personnel management. Coordinated effort from the national bariatric societies should focus on strict implementation of the current recommendations regarding precaution measures and personal protection equipment. Further studies should evaluate how this impact will evolve in the near future.