Increasing socioeconomic distress has been associated with worse cardiac surgery outcomes. The extent to which the pandemic affected cardiac surgical access and outcomes remains unknown. We sought to examine the relationship between the COVID-19 pandemic and outcomes after cardiac surgery by socioeconomic status.
All patients undergoing a Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) index operation in a regional collaborative, the Virginia Cardiac Services Quality Initiative (2011-2022), were analyzed. Patients were stratified by timing of surgery before vs during the COVID-19 pandemic (March 13, 2020). Hierarchic logistic regression assessed the relationship between the pandemic and operative mortality, major morbidity, and cost, adjusting for the Distressed Communities Index (DCI), STS predicted risk of mortality, intraoperative characteristics, and hospital random effect.
A total of 37,769 patients across 17 centers were included. Of these, 7269 patients (19.7%) underwent surgery during the pandemic. On average, patients during the pandemic were less socioeconomically distressed (DCI 37.4 vs DCI 41.9; P < .001) and had a lower STS predicted risk of mortality (2.16% vs 2.53%, P < .001). After risk adjustment, the pandemic was significantly associated with increased mortality (odds ratio 1.398; 95% CI, 1.179-1.657; P < .001), cost (+$4823, P < .001), and STS failure to rescue (odds ratio 1.37; 95% CI, 1.10-1.70; P = .005). The negative impact of the pandemic on mortality and cost was similar regardless of DCI.
Across all socioeconomic statuses, the pandemic is associated with higher cost and greater risk-adjusted mortality, perhaps related to a resource-constrained health care system. More patients during the pandemic were from less distressed communities, raising concern for access to care in distressed communities.