Lessons learned by thoracic surgeons during the COVID-19 pandemic

Helen J. Madsen*, Anne Lambert-Kerzner, Ellison Mucharsky, Joseph D. Phillips, Elizabeth A. David, David D. Odell, Adam R. Dyas, Robert A. Meguid

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The scale of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has necessitated healthcare systems to adapt and evolve, altering physician roles and expectations. Thoracic surgeons have seen practice changes from new COVID-19 consults to necessary delay and triage of elective care. The goal of this study was to understand the impact of COVID-19 on thoracic surgeon experiences in order to anticipate roles and changes in practice in future such circumstances. Methods: Semi-structured, qualitative individual telephone interviews were conducted with thoracic surgeons. Interviews were structured to understand how surgeons were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and to record lessons learned. Interviews were conducted until thematic saturation was achieved. Data were analyzed using matrix analysis. Results: Eleven board-certified general thoracic surgeons from nine institutions were interviewed. Thoracic surgeon roles in COVID-19 care included critical care delivery, performing tracheostomies and establishing related protocols, and interventions for long-term airway complications. Attention was called to the impact of the pandemic on thoracic cancer: patients avoided hospitals because of concern over COVID-19, delaying care. Conclusions: Thoracic surgeons played a critical role in the COVID-19 pandemic response in both technical patient care and administrative capacities. Primary care responsibilities included the development, administration and delivery of tracheostomy protocols, and the care of down-stream airway complications. Thoracic surgeons were critical in triage decisions to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on thoracic cancer care. Lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic may provide insight into opportunities to promote collaboration in thoracic surgery and facilitate improved care delivery in future settings of resource limitation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)507-515
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Thoracic Disease
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
  • lessons learned
  • pandemic
  • qualitative
  • thoracic surgery COVID-19

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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