Did COVID-19 related delays in surgical management lead to patient morbidity in the orthopaedic oncological population?

M. J. Fitzgerald, H. J. Goodman, S. Kenan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Aims The aim of this study was to assess orthopaedic oncologic patient morbidity resulting from COVID-19 related institutional delays and surgical shutdowns during the first wave of the pandemic in New York, USA. Methods A single-centre retrospective observational study was conducted of all orthopaedic oncologic patients undergoing surgical evaluation from March to June 2020. Patients were prioritized as level 0-IV, 0 being elective and IV being emergent. Only priority levels 0 to III were included. Delay duration was measured in days and resulting morbidities were categorized into seven groups: Prolonged pain/disability; unplanned preoperative radiation and/ or chemotherapy; local tumour progression; increased systemic disease; missed opportunity for surgery due to progression of disease/lost to follow up; delay in diagnosis; and no morbidity. Results Overall, 25 patients met inclusion criteria. There were eight benign tumours, seven metastatic, seven primary sarcomas, one multiple myeloma, and two patients without a biopsy proven diagnosis. There was no priority level 0, two priority level I, six priority level II, and 17 priority level III cases. The mean duration of delay for priority level I was 114 days (84 to 143), priority level II was 88 days (63 to 133), and priority level III was 77 days (35 to 269). Prolonged pain/disability and delay in diagnosis, affecting 52% and 40%,respectively, represented the two most frequent morbidities. Local tumour progression and increased systemic disease affected 32% and 24% respectively. No patients tested positive for COVID-19. Conclusion COVID-19 related delays in surgical management led to major morbidity in this studied orthopaedic oncologic patient population. By understanding these morbidities through clearer hindsight, a thoughtful approach can be developed to balance the risk of COVID-19 exposure versus delay in treatment, ensuring optimal care for orthopedic oncologic patients as the pandemic continues with intermittent calls for halting surgery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)236-242
Number of pages7
JournalBone and Joint Open
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • Cancer
  • Coronavirus
  • Orthopaedic oncology
  • SARS-CoV-2


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