Comparison of outcomes of neurosurgical operations performed before and during the COVID-19 pandemic: a matched cohort study

Emma Toman, Wai Cheong Soon, Gopiga Thanabalasundaram, Daniel Burns, Vladimir Petrik, Colin Watts, Victoria Wykes, Anwen White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Downloads (Pure)


OBJECTIVE: To determine how the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic affected outcomes for all operatively managed neurosurgical patients, not only those positive for SARS-CoV-2.

DESIGN: Matched cohort (pairwise method).

SETTING: A single tertiary neurosurgical referral centre at a large UK Major Trauma Centre.

PARTICIPANTS: During the first COVID-19 wave, 231 neurosurgical cases were performed. These cases were matched to cases from 2019. Cases were matched for age (±10 years), primary pathology and surgical procedure. Cases were excluded from analysis if either the age could not be matched to within 10 years, or the primary pathology or procedure was too unique. After exclusions, 191 cases were included in final analysis.

OUTCOME MEASURES: Primary outcomes were 30-day mortality and postoperative pulmonary complications. Secondary outcomes included Glasgow Outcome Score (GOS) on discharge, length of stay (LoS), operative and anaesthetic times and grade of primary surgeon. An exploratory outcome was the SARS-CoV-2 status of patients.

RESULTS: There was no significant difference between the pandemic and matched cohorts in 30-day mortality, pulmonary complications, discharge GOS, LoS, operative or anaesthetic times. There was a significant difference in the variation of grade of primary surgeon. Only 2.2% (n=5) of patients had a SARS-CoV-2 positive swab.

CONCLUSION: During the first UK wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the mortality, morbidity and functional outcomes of operatively managed neurosurgical patients at University Hospitals Birmingham were not significantly affected compared with normal practice. The grade of primary surgeon was significantly more senior and adds to the growing body of evidence that demonstrates how the pandemic has negatively impacted UK surgical training. Mixing COVID-19 positive, unknown and negative cases did not significantly impact on outcomes and indicates that further research is required to support the implementation of evidence-based surgical pathways, such as COVID-light sites, throughout the next stage of the pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere047063
JournalBMJ open
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2


Dive into the research topics of 'Comparison of outcomes of neurosurgical operations performed before and during the COVID-19 pandemic: a matched cohort study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this