The unprecedented health care scenario caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has revolutionized urology practice worldwide.
To review the recommendations by the international and European national urological associations/societies (UASs) on prioritization strategies for both oncological and nononcological procedures released during the current emergency scenario.
Each UAS official website was searched between April 8 and 18, 2020, to retrieve any document, publication, or position paper on prioritization strategies regarding both diagnostic and therapeutic urological procedures, and any recommendations on the use of telemedicine and minimally invasive surgery. We collected detailed information on all urological procedures, stratified by disease, priority (higher vs lower), and patient setting (outpatient vs inpatient). Then, we critically discussed the implications of such recommendations for urology practice in both the forthcoming "adaptive" and the future "chronic" phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Overall, we analyzed the recommendations from 13 UASs, of which four were international (American Urological Association, Confederation Americana de Urologia, European Association of Urology, and Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand) and nine national (from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, The Netherlands, and the UK). In the outpatient setting, the procedures that are likely to impact the future burden of urologists' workload most are prostate biopsies and elective procedures for benign conditions. In the inpatient setting, the most relevant contributors to this burden are represented by elective surgeries for lower-risk prostate and renal cancers, nonobstructing stone disease, and benign prostatic hyperplasia. Finally, some UASs recommended special precautions to perform minimally invasive surgery, while others outlined the potential role of telemedicine to optimize resources in the current and future scenarios.
The expected changes will put significant strain on urological units worldwide regarding the overall workload of urologists, internal logistics, inflow of surgical patients, and waiting lists. In light of these predictions, urologists should strive to leverage this emergency period to reshape their role in the future.
Overall, there was a large consensus among different urological associations/societies regarding the prioritization of most urological procedures, including those in the outpatient setting, urological emergencies, and many inpatient surgeries for both oncological and nononcological conditions. On the contrary, some differences were found regarding specific cancer surgeries (ie, radical cystectomy for higher-risk bladder cancer and nephrectomy for larger organ-confined renal masses), potentially due to different prioritization criteria and/or health care contexts. In the future, the outpatient procedures that are likely to impact the burden of urologists' workload most are prostate biopsies and elective procedures for benign conditions. In the inpatient setting, the most relevant contributors to this burden are represented by elective surgeries for lower-risk prostate and renal cancers, nonobstructing stone disease, and benign prostatic hyperplasia.