Original Research

Neurosurgery Operating Room Efficiency During the COVID-19 Era




To analyze the effect of COVID-19 on neurosurgical OR efficiency, institutional perioperative databases at a single high-volume center were queried for operations performed from December 2019 until October 2021. March 12, 2020, was chosen as the onset of COVID-19 for analytic purposes, as this was the date when the state of Tennessee declared a state of emergency. The 90-day periods before and after this date were used for comparative analysis for pre-COVID-19, peak COVID-19, and post-peak-restrictions time periods. The peak COVID-19 period was defined as the 90-day period following the initial onset of COVID-19 and the surge of cases. For comparison purposes, post-peak COVID-19 was defined as the months following the first peak until October 2021 (approximately 17 months). COVID-19 burden was determined using a COVID-19 single-institution census of confirmed cases by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for which the average number of cases of COVID-19 during a given month was determined. This number is a scaled trend, and a true number of COVID-19 cases in our hospital was not reported.

Neurosurgical and neuroendovascular cases were included in the analysis. Outcomes included delay in first-start and OR turnover time between neurosurgical cases, defined as the time from the patient leaving the room until the next patient entered the room. Preset threshold times were used in analyses to adjust for normal leniency in OR scheduling (15 minutes for first start and 90 minutes for turnover, which is a standard for our single-institution perioperative center). Statistical analyses, including data aggregation, were performed using R, version 4.0.1 (R Foundation for Statistical Computing). Patients’ demographic and clinical characteristics were analyzed using an independent 2-sample t-test for interval variables and a chi-square test for categorical variables. Significance was defined as P < .05.


First-Start Time

First-start time was analyzed in 426 pre-COVID-19, 357 peak-COVID-19, and 2304 post-peak-COVID-19 cases. The unadjusted mean delay length was significantly different between the time periods, but the magnitude of increase in minutes was immaterial (mean [SD] minutes, 6 [18] vs 10 [21] vs 8 [20], respectively; P=.004) (Table 1).

First-Start Time Analysis

The adjusted average delay length and proportion of cases delayed beyond the 15-minute threshold were not significantly different, but they have been slightly higher since the onset of COVID-19. The proportion of cases that have started early, as well as significantly early past a 15-minute threshold, have also trended down since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this difference was again not significant. The temporal relationship of first-start delay, both unadjusted and adjusted, from December 2019 to October 2021 is shown in Figure 1. The trend of increasing delay is loosely associated with the COVID-19 burden experienced by our hospital. The start of COVID-19 as well as both COVID-19 peaks have been associated with increased delays in our hospital.

(A) Unadjusted and (B) adjusted first-start delay in operating room efficiency relative to COVID-19 census.

Turnover Time

Turnover time was assessed in 437 pre-COVID-19, 278 peak-restrictions, and 2411 post-peak-restrictions cases. Turnover time during peak restrictions was not significantly different from pre-COVID-19 (88 [100] vs 85 [95]) and has since remained relatively unchanged (83 [87], P = .78). A similar trend held for comparisons of proportion of cases with turnover time past 90 minutes and average times past the 90-minute threshold (Table 2). The temporal relationship between COVID-19 burden and turnover time, both unadjusted and adjusted, from December 2019 to October 2021 is shown in Figure 2. Both figures demonstrate a slight initial increase in turnover time delay at the start of COVID-19, which stabilized with little variation thereafter.

Turnover Time Analysis
(A) Unadjusted and (B) adjusted turnover time in operating room efficiency relative to COVID-19 census.


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