The Effect of COVID-19 on Interventional Radiology Around the Globe
Radiologists have adapted to the unique circumstances of the pandemic
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, it has put an incredible strain on health care providers, including in interventional radiology (IR).
At the beginning of the pandemic, IR teams had to make decisions regarding which procedures to cancel and which to move forward. Those procedures that were scheduled needed to be done under quickly devised and carefully orchestrated infection control procedures that were new for the radiologists and the patients.
As the pandemic began to ebb and departments began scheduling procedures again, interventional radiologists have been balancing the scheduling of postponed procedures with new ones.
Despite these enormous challenges, interventional radiologists have continued to provide high-quality care and have learned vital lessons for responding to the next pandemic.
Managing Case Volumes
In the first few months of the pandemic, there was an approximate 30% drop in case volumes in the Interventional Radiology Department at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in VA, according to Daniel W O’Neal, MD, radiology chief resident at the institution and author of an article in the American Journal of Interventional Radiology about his hospital’s experience during the pandemic.
“To the best of our knowledge, we were able to avoid any significant health consequences due to our tiered decision-making process when determining which cases to postpone,” Dr. O’Neal said. “We first created a list of low acuity, outpatient cases that were automatically postponed. All other cases were reviewed by an interventional radiologist and determined if they could be postponed on a case-by-case basis.”
During the height of the pandemic, a study conducted in Singapore and published in Insights into Imaging found that the demand for non-COVID-19 related IR treatments remained high and that COVID-19 related IR procedures made up less than 1% of the workload during the acute phase of the pandemic.
“The conclusion one could draw is that if resources are not being diverted due to an outbreak and effective standard measures are being used to mitigate infection risk, blanket postponement of non-COVID related treatment is probably detrimental and unnecessary, as long as the vast majority of interventional radiology treatments are outpatient-based, and the treatments can be postponed at short notice, if necessary,” noted study author Uei Pua, MBBS, MMED, FRCR, FAMS, senior consultant in the Department of Radiology at Tan Tock Seng Hospital and adjunct associate professor at the National University of Singapore.