Comparison of Pediatric Otolaryngology Clinical and Operative Case Volume Among Surgical Specialties in the COVID-19 Pandemic

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International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology


Objectives: To report changes in clinical and surgical volume impacting a Pediatric Otolaryngology division one year prior to and following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in comparison to five other pediatric surgical subspecialties. Methods: The number of clinical visits and surgical cases per month for six pediatric surgical specialties (Otolaryngology, Orthopedic Surgery, Urology, Neurosurgery, Plastic Surgery, and General Surgery) for 12 months prior to the pandemic and 12 months following the onset of the pandemic was collected. Poisson regression analysis was performed for the number of visits and cases per season adjusting for specialty, season, staffing changes, and the pandemic to determine adjusted rate ratios (aRR) post-pandemic for the surgical fields compared to Otolaryngology. Results: A percentage decrease in median visits per paired month (−15.63%, IQR = −23.01, −1.66) and operative cases (−19.86%, IQR = −29.39, −10.17) was seen for Pediatric Otolaryngology. Regression analysis showed a significant negative effect on the number of visits (aRR = 0.74, 95% CI = 0.70–0.77) and cases (aRR = 0.65, 95% CI = 0.60–0.71) due to the pandemic. While many of the other specialties had predicted reductions in volume (notably Orthopedics), they all experienced significant predicted increases in productivity following the pandemic compared to Otolaryngology. Conclusions: These findings suggest that Pediatric Otolaryngology is particularly vulnerable to this change in clinical pattern, which could be due to a decline in community infections from mask wearing and social distancing, and may result in a longer-term volume deficit when compared to other pediatric surgical subspecialties.

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