Elective Surgery Checklist for Patients During COVID-19

While our country is figuring out how to open back up and lift some restrictions that were set in place due to COVID-19, there’s a big question on the minds of many patients: is it safe to resume elective surgeries?

From lumpectomies to hip replacements and plastic surgery, people anxiously await the green light to undergo procedures recommended to them by their physicians months ago. Many of these procedures were cancelled for patients’ safety, and while they may not be life-saving surgeries, patients are eager to have them done to improve their quality of life.

Resumption of these surgeries will vary from state to state, but all patients can use the checklist from the American Society of Anesthesiologists to help ensure their comfort in moving forward with surgery.

Your knee replacement, cataract removal, hernia repair or other elective surgery was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and now your doctor is calling to reschedule, but you are unsure. As the curve of new COVID-19 cases begins to flatten in the United States, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is providing guidelines so you know when it’s safe to have surgery.

“Physicians, hospitals and health systems are eager to resume elective surgeries and patients are looking to have the procedures they planned, before the pandemic put everything on hold,” said ASA President Mary Dale Peterson, MD, MSHCA, FACHE, FASA. “Health systems can ensure these procedures resume safely by following ASA guidance.”

Partnering with other associations, ASA developed a roadmap to help health care organizations safely resume elective surgeries by assessing readiness, prioritization and scheduling. Patients can use the following checklist to ensure their comfort in moving forward with surgery:

Cases are decreasing. When the number of new cases in your area has decreased every day for the last two weeks, it is safe to resume elective procedures, as recommended by the ASA and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

flattening the curve

All patients are tested. Before you have surgery, you should be tested for COVID-19. Your health care provider also will ask if you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days, or if you have experienced unexplained fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat or loss of taste or smell in the last two weeks. While it may be tempting to shrug off these symptoms or potential exposure, it is extremely important to be honest, for your safety and the safety of your surgical team. Patients who have viral infections are at higher risk for complications. A new ASA statement on perioperative testing for COVID-19 provides further explanation.

The procedure will be performed in a safe environment. Performing procedures in a location separate from where COVID-19 patients are being treated, such as an ambulatory care center or in a different part of the hospital, protects you and your surgical team.

The facility has created a COVID-19 surgical care plan. The ASA recommends health care facilities adopt COVID-19-related policies that address every stage of surgical care, from before the procedure to post-discharge care planning.

Your physicians are there to answer your questions and concerns and are working to create the safest environment possible for you to have your needed surgery. In many areas, elective surgeries have not been performed for more than a month, meaning there will be a backlog and it may take time to schedule your procedure.

Beyond COVID-19 safety, you can learn more about outpatient surgery and review Preparing for Surgery: an Anesthesia Checklist to be sure you are fully prepared for your long-awaited elective procedure.


Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is an educational, research and scientific society with more than 54,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology. ASA is committed to ensuring physician anesthesiologists evaluate and supervise the medical care of patients before, during and after surgery to provide the highest quality and safest care every patient deserves.

For more information on the field of anesthesiology, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologists online at To learn more about the role physician anesthesiologists play in ensuring patient safety, visit Like ASA on Facebook, follow ASALifeline on Twitter.

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