Background: The worldwide spread of a novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has led to a near total stop of non-urgent, elective surgeries across all specialties in most affected countries. In the field of aesthetic surgery, the self-imposed moratorium for all aesthetic surgery procedures recommended by most international scientific societies has been adopted by many surgeons worldwide and resulted in a huge socioeconomic impact for most private practices and clinics. An important question still unanswered in most countries is when and how should elective/aesthetic procedures be scheduled again and what kind of organizational changes are necessary to protect patients and healthcare workers when clinics and practices reopen. Defining manageable, evidence-based protocols for testing, surgical/procedural risk mitigation and clinical flow management/contamination management will be paramount for the safety of non-urgent surgical procedures.
Methods: We conducted a MEDLINE/PubMed research for all available publications on COVID-19 and surgery and COVID-19 and anesthesia. Articles and referenced literature describing possible procedural impact factors leading to exacerbation of the clinical evolution of COVID-19-positive patients were identified to perform risk stratification for elective surgery. Based on these impact factors, considerations for patient selection, choice of procedural complexity, duration of procedure, type of anesthesia, etc., are discussed in this article and translated into algorithms for surgical/anesthesia risk management and clinical management. Current recommendations and published protocols on contamination control, avoidance of cross-contamination and procedural patient flow are reviewed. A COVID-19 testing guideline protocol for patients planning to undergo elective aesthetic surgery is presented and recommendations are made regarding adaptation of current patient information/informed consent forms and patient health questionnaires.
Conclusion: The COVID-19 crisis has led to unprecedented challenges in the acute management of the crisis, and the wave only recently seems to flatten out in some countries. The adaptation of surgical and procedural steps for a risk-minimizing management of potential COVID-19-positive patients seeking to undergo elective aesthetic procedures in the wake of that wave will present the next big challenge for the aesthetic surgery community. We propose a clinical algorithm to enhance patient safety in elective surgery in the context of COVID-19 and to minimize cross-contamination between healthcare workers and patients. New evidence-based guidelines regarding surgical risk stratification, testing, and clinical flow management/contamination management are proposed. We believe that only the continuous development and broad implementation of guidelines like the ones proposed in this paper will allow an early reintegration of all aesthetic procedures into the scope of surgical care currently performed and to prepare the elective surgical specialties better for a possible second wave of the pandemic.
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Keywords: Aesthetic surgery; COVID-19; COVID-19 PCR test; COVID-19 prophylaxis; Clinical care protocol; Contamination management; Elective surgery; IGM/IGG antibody rapid testing; Patient safety; Patient selection; Procedure flow; SARS-Cov-2.