Background The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic had a huge impact on healthcare systems globally. Decline in hospital admissions for common medical emergencies was observed. We investigated its collateral effect on hospitalizations and clinical outcomes in patients with gastrointestinal (GI) and liver diseases in Hong Kong.
Methods We performed a territory-wide retrospective cohort study in Hong Kong from January 1, 2019, to May 31, 2020. Data were retrieved through Clinical Data Analysis and Reporting System. We included patients admitted to hospitals with top diagnoses of luminal GI cancers, pancreatico-hepatobiliary cancers, benign pancreaticobiliary disorders, liver diseases, non-infective enteritis and colitis, non-variceal and variceal upper gastrointestinal bleeding (UGIB). We excluded patient-based hospital admissions without emergency department attendance and length of stay equal to or shorter than one day. The primary endpoint was the total number of index hospital admissions related to these diagnoses at different time points. The secondary endpoints were in-hospital mortality, intensive care unit admission, elective or emergency operations and endoscopy. The COVID-19 period was defined as the time after the first local case in January 2020, week 4.
Results We recorded a total of 195,867 hospital admissions related to GI diseases during the study period, and 125,049 of them were included in the final analysis. Comparing the same pre-COVID19 and COVID-19 periods, we observed a significant decline in the average number of hospitalizations for GI diseases (17.0% reduction, P <0.001). (Figure 1) In-hospital mortality did not differ significantly (11.2% vs 11.7%, P = 0.063). Overall ICU admission rate was static (5.3% vs 5.1%, P = 0.218). More emergency endoscopies were performed in patients with UGIB (30.0% vs 38.9%, P <0.001) and benign pancreaticobiliary conditions (17.5% vs 24.4%, P <0.001). Higher proportion of patients underwent emergency operations during their hospitalization (6.7% vs 8.0%, P <0.001).
Conclusions The number of hospitalizations related to GI diseases reduced drastically during the COVID-19 epidemic, yet no excessive in-hospital mortality was observed. More emergency endoscopies and operations were required, particularly for UGIB and benign pancreaticobiliary conditions.
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