Slowing the Spread and Minimizing the Impact of COVID-19: Lessons from the Past and Recommendations for the Plastic Surgeon

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2020 Sep;146(3):681-689. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000007221.


Background: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a novel coronavirus originating in December of 2019 in Wuhan, People's Republic of China, has spread rapidly throughout the globe over 3 months. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. COVID-19 represents a nearly unprecedented threat to both the public health and the durability of our health care systems and will profoundly affect the field of plastic and reconstructive surgery. The objective of this article is to provide a natural history of COVID-19-including virology, epidemiology, and transmission patterns-and a guide for plastic surgeons regarding patient and resource management.

Methods: The authors reviewed existing literature regarding COVID-19, both primary research and secondary reviews, by means of PubMed queries, and recommendations from relevant professional organizations (e.g., American College of Surgeons and American Society of Plastic Surgeons). The literature and recommendations were summarized to provide a specific guide for plastic surgeons.

Results: Internationally, over 5.7 million cases and 357,000 deaths from COVID-19 have been reported at the time of writing. No pharmacologic treatments have been identified, but epidemiologic strategies were identified to prevent viral spread, preserve health care resources, and protect patients and surgeons globally. Specific recommendations for plastic and reconstructive surgeons include postponing elective cases and transitioning to telecommunication platforms for patient consultations and education.

Conclusions: COVID-19 represents a nearly unprecedented threat to the public health and the durability of health care systems in the contemporary era. Although plastic and reconstructive surgery may seem relatively remote from the pandemic in direct patient care and exposure, our field can significantly enhance health care resource management.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / transmission
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Perioperative Care / standards*
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / standards*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / transmission
  • SARS-CoV-2