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Patient Safety

How These Times Have Changed Surgery Forever

Beverly K. Phillips, president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, provides answers to common questions about surgery in a COVID-19 world.

Beverly K. Phillips

President, American Society of Anesthesiologists

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Will I need a COVID-19 test before surgery? 

You will likely be required to have a negative COVID-19 test. If you need emergency surgery and test positive or results aren’t available, health care providers will take extra precautions, using enhanced PPE and placing you in quarantine for recovery. For non-urgent surgery, patients without COVID-19 symptoms should have a negative polymerase chain reaction COVID-19 test prior.

Does COVID-19 or the vaccine interfere with anesthesia? 

No evidence exists that COVID-19 or the vaccine interferes with anesthesia. However, because surgery puts extra strain on your body, you should wait until you are fully recovered or fully immunized after vaccination.

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Is it safe to have surgery if I had COVID-19 or been vaccinated? 

You can have surgery once you’ve fully recovered from COVID-19. The ASA recommends waiting four weeks (if you had no or mild symptoms) to 12 weeks (if you were admitted to the ICU) to have surgery. If you’ve been vaccinated, schedule surgery two weeks after the final dose.

Should I wait until I’m vaccinated to have surgery? 

If you are having non-emergency surgery such as a hip replacement, it is wise to get vaccinated first.

Will surgery take longer now? 

Most institutions have added time between surgeries for increased cleaning, so surgery may occur later or take longer to schedule.

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