Background: Optimal inguinal hernia repair timing remains controversial. It remains unclear how COVID-19 related elective surgery cancellations impacted timing of inguinal hernia repair and whether any delays led to complications. This study aims to determine whether elective surgery cancellations are safe in pediatric inguinal hernia. Methods: This multicenter retrospective cohort study at 14 children's hospitals included patients ≤18 years who underwent inguinal hernia repair between September 13, 2019, through September 13, 2020. Patients were categorized by whether their inguinal hernia repair occurred before or after their hospital's COVID-19 elective surgery cancellation date. Incarceration and emergency department encounters were compared between pre and postcancellation. Results: Of 1,404 patients, 604 (43.0%) underwent inguinal hernia repair during the postcancellation period, 92 (6.6%) experienced incarceration, and 213 (15.2%) had an emergency department encounter. The postcancellation period was not associated with incarceration (odds ratio 1.54; 95% confidence interval 0.88–2.71; P = .13) or emergency department encounters (odds ratio 1.53; 95% confidence interval 0.94–2.48; P = .09) despite longer median times to inguinal hernia repair (precancellation 29 days [interquartile range 13–55 days] versus postcancellation 31 days [interquartile range 14–73 days], P = .01). Infants were more likely to have the emergency department be their index presentation in the postcancellation period (odds ratio 1.69; 95% confidence interval 1.24–2.31; P < .01). Conclusion: Overall, COVID-19 elective surgery cancellations do not appear to increase the likelihood of incarceration or emergency department encounters despite delays in inguinal hernia repair, suggesting that cancellations are safe in children with inguinal hernia. Assessment of elective surgery cancellation safety has important implications for health policy.
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