• Thousands of elective surgeries are being pushed back at U.S. hospitals
  • Resources like hospitals beds, supplies and staff are diverted for coronavirus patients
  • Surgeons are asked to assess their cases carefully as some of these can't be delayed too long

Elective surgeries, including cancer biopsies, are being canceled at many hospitals in the U.S. amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Indefinite delays in scheduled operations and thousands of non-urgent surgeries are becoming common because hospital facilities are clearing bed spaces while medical workers are asked to attend to the increase in coronavirus patients.

Hospitals in America are delaying thousands of elective surgeries, including cancer biopsies, due to the coronavirus. skeeze/Pixabay

On March 22, Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams ordered hospitals to defer elective procedures as supplies of masks, gloves, and gowns are diverted for emergency use. The decision is necessary so that hospitals can respond to the COVID-19 crisis.

Doctors are also concerned for seniors and vulnerable patients who proceed with their surgeries, rather than observing quarantine, as they are most at risk for contracting the virus.

"Deferring elective procedures does not mean they cannot or will not be done in the future once we see our COVID-19 response needs decrease," the surgeon general said. "We are at a critical point in our global and national response to an unprecedented pandemic, and it will take sacrifice and an all-of-America effort."

The American College of Surgeons supports the Surgeon General's order to push back some surgeries.

"Each hospital, health system, and surgeon should thoughtfully review all scheduled elective procedures with a plan to minimize, postpone, or cancel electively scheduled operations, endoscopies, or other invasive procedures until we have passed the predicted inflection point in the exposure graph," the organization recommended.

Dr. David Battinelli, the chief medical officer of New York's largest healthcare provider Northwell Health, said that these elective surgeries must not be delayed too long. Cases must be assessed carefully for rescheduling.

"When you say elective, a person on the street might think, well, maybe they didn't need it at all," Battinelli said. "Some of these planned procedures can't be put off that long."

Some of the most common surgical cancellations include knee replacements, hernia repair, breast reconstructions, tummy tucks, facelifts, dental surgeries, and cancer biopsies. At Northwell, surgeries are classified as emergent, urgent, or delayed for a month (cancer biopsies), planned or delayed for three to six months (knee replacements), and cosmetic or indefinitely delayed.