Laparoscopic cholecystectomy is one of the most frequently performed operations in the United Kingdom, commonly due to symptomatic gallstones. Delay between diagnosis and definitive surgical intervention often leads to a significant readmission rate, growing financial burden and increased complexity of the ultimate surgical intervention. Resource reallocation and reduced operational capacity during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led to an impending waiting list crisis.
In an attempt to address the backlog of cases, five intensive dedicated operating lists were allocated for laparoscopic cholecystectomies across a weekend in October 2020 at a single Trust. Prospective data were collected to include baseline demographics, operative procedure, 30-day post-operative outcomes and financial implications.
A total of 21 cholecystectomies were performed in total, with a majority ASA 2 (American Society of Anaesthesiologists) for predominantly biliary colic indication. All were completed laparoscopically, with a 90.5% rate for complete resection. There were no reported on-table complications and 81.0% of patients discharged as a day case. Thirty day follow-up revealed a complication rate of 9.5%, with 2 patients requiring oral antibiotics for a superficial wound infection. The 30 day COVID-19 rate was 14.3%. Compared to completion on an average weekday list, the total weekend was estimated to have saved over £70,000 in overall costs.
Our study showed that weekend focused operating, with a caveat of careful patient selection and high-quality multidisciplinary working, can be a feasible solution to long waiting lists due to COVID-19 pandemic. It was safe, with avoidance of increased burden on emergency resources, and significantly increased theatre efficiency.