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28 million cancelled surgeries worldwide

A study published in the British Journal of Surgery estimates that 28.4 million operations have been cancelled worldwide in the 12 weeks of peak disruption of hospital services due to COVID-19. For this week’s infographic, HBI painstakingly plotted the figures against population size to see where people have been most affected.

The paper (link) estimates the global average weekly number of cancelled operations during the peak of the crisis – a 12-week period for which the date differs between countries – of 2,367,050. It is based on responses to a questionnaire from 359 hospitals in 71 countries between March 20-30, 2020, which were extrapolated across the other 112 UN states (excluding Liechtenstein, North Korea and Somalia) using the 2018 Human Development Index (HDI).

The overall cancellation rate was found to be 72.3%: 81.7% for benign surgery, 37.7% for cancer surgery and 25.4% for elective caesarian sections. “If countries increase their normal surgical volume by 20% post-pandemic, it would take a median 45 weeks to clear the backlog of operations resulting from COVID-19 disruption,” the study says.

The map below shows the rate of weekly cancelled operations per 10,000 people. It doesn’t account for the rate of surgeries in ‘normal’ times, so the figures is lower in under-funded health systems where fewer people have access to healthcare.

We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to Cameron Murray or call 0207 183 3779.