DOI: 10.1093/bjs/znad258.363 ISSN:

696 “The Doctor Will See You… Soon”: The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Acute Biliary Surgery and Patient Experience

A Carter, Y Sabah, S Weaver
  • Surgery



Managing biliary disease acutely is cost effective and has high patient satisfaction. Our unit has established a successful “hot” gallbladder pathway, but COVID-19 and reduced operating capacity has potentially impacted this. This study compares rates of “hot” cholecystectomy, patient satisfaction and quality of life (QoL) impact pre and during COVID-19 pandemic, to determine whether performance has been affected.


Quantitative data on time from diagnosis to surgery was collected from September to March in 2016-17 and 2021-22. A QoL questionnaire was piloted and distributed to eligible patients in March-April 2017 and 2022, enquiring about symptoms, mental health, anxiety, and patient experience.


Mean wait for non-elective cholecystectomy was 2.4 days (range 0-8) in 2016-17, versus 6 days (range 0-86) in 2021-22. 100% (n = 57) of patients in 2016-17 had surgery within 8 days, compared with 83% (n = 53) in 2021-22. Median number of “hot” cholecystectomies weekly was unchanged. Patient satisfaction was sustained; 92% of patients in 2022 would “definitely” recommend the service, compared to 100% in 2017. 33% of patients in 2022 reported that mental health was impacted “extremely” or “quite a lot”, compared with 27% in 2017. 38% of patients in 2022 were “extremely” anxious about recurrent symptoms before surgery, compared to 27% in 2017. 33% of patients felt that COVID-19 impacted access to services for gallbladder disease.


The “hot” cholecystectomy service has been impacted by COVID-19, but performance remains high. It is still possible to deliver a successful service despite COVID constraints. Despite increased delays, patients remain very satisfied with their care.

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