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Declining Numbers of Neurosurgical Emergencies at a German University Medical Center during the Coronavirus Lockdown
Background The coronavirus pandemic due to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is posing unprecedented challenges to health care systems around the globe. Consequently, various lockdown scenarios have been politically imposed to get control over the spread of this disease. We examined the impact of the lockdown situation on the number of neurosurgical emergency patients admitted to our tertiary care center with a catchment area of ∼2.2 million inhabitants in the south of Germany to ensure adequate neurosurgical emergency care during a pandemic lockdown.
Methods All emergency admissions (with consecutive inpatient treatment) to the Department of Neurosurgery at the University Medical Center Regensburg, Germany, between March 1 and May 8 (69 days) of the years 2018, 2019, and 2020 were retrospectively identified and reviewed for this study. Demographic data, diagnoses, urgency of surgery, and duration of the journey to the emergency room were examined.
Results Between March 1 and May 8, 2020, 59 emergency patients were neurosurgically treated at our department. Compared with 2018 and 2019, emergency admissions in 2020 had thus declined by 37.2 and 27.1%, respectively. Regarding the year 2020, we found a significant drop from 1.71 and 1.52 emergency patients per day in January and February 2020, respectively, to 0.86 during lockdown (p < 0.001). The decline especially concerned nontraumatic spinal cases and also patients with other neurosurgical diagnoses such as intracranial hemorrhage. Evaluation of the overall disease severity of admitted patients by means of the urgency of surgery showed no difference between the baseline years and the lockdown period.
Conclusion Our findings are in line with other observational studies of neurosurgical, neurologic, and cardiologic centers in Europe that have described a drop in emergency cases. The reasons for this drop that seems to affect various medical fields and countries across Europe are still unidentified. Morbidity and mortality rates are still unknown, and efforts should be made to facilitate neurosurgical emergency care during a pandemic lockdown.
Received: 01 October 2020
Accepted: 04 February 2021
Article published online:
12 December 2021
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