INTRODUCTION: Substantial healthcare resources have been diverted to manage the effects of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic, and nonemergency neurosurgery has been effectively closed. As we begin to emerge from the crisis, we will need to manage the backlog of nonemergency neurosurgical patients whose treatment has been delayed and remain responsive to further possible surges of SARS-CoV-2 infections.
METHODS: In the present study, we aimed to identify the core themes and challenges that will limit resumption of a normal neurosurgical service after the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and to provide pragmatic advice and solutions that could be of utility to clinicians seeking to resume nonemergency neurosurgical care. We reviewed the relevant international policies, a wide range of journalistic and media sources, and expert opinion documents to address the stated aims.
RESULTS: We have presented and discussed a range of factors that could become potential barriers to resuming full elective neurosurgical provision and important steps that must be completed to achieve pre-SARS-CoV-2 surgical capacity. We also explored how these challenges can be overcome and outlined the key requirements for a successful neurosurgical exit strategy from the pandemic.
CONCLUSION: The performance of nonemergency neurosurgery can start once minimum criteria have been fulfilled: 1) a structured prioritization of surgical cases; 2) virus infection incidence decreased sufficiently to release previously diverted healthcare resources; 3) adequate safety criteria met for patients and staff, including sufficient personal protective equipment and robust testing availability; and 4) maintenance of systems for rapid communication at organizational and individual levels.
Keywords: COVID-19 Coronavirus Exit strategy Lockdown Neurosurgery Service provision Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2