Protection for Otolaryngologic Surgery in the COVID-19 Pandemic

OTO Open. 2020 Jun 8;4(2):2473974X20934734. doi: 10.1177/2473974X20934734. eCollection Apr-Jun 2020.


Objective: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has placed unprecedented challenges on the world and the medical community. It is transmitted through droplets, contact, the fecal-oral route, and airborne transmission under certain conditions that allow droplets to combine with air particles to form an aerosol. Viral loads are higher in the nasal area and similar in symptomatic and asymptomatic patients. Medical situations have been classified into high and low risk of generating aerosols. Most procedures and surgery in otolaryngology correspond to high-risk medical situations. This review aims to gather the vast amount of available information and generate recommendations for different surgical procedures according to aerosolization risk and COVID-19 status, with use of specific personal protective equipment in each case.

Data sources: PubMed, MEDLINE, and Embase. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and Food and Drug Administration.

Review methods: We conducted a review on the literature on personal protective equipment for otolaryngologic surgery and surgical indication restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conclusions: SARS-CoV-2 is an easily transmitted virus. Asymptomatic and symptomatic patients with COVID-19 present an upper airway high viral load, conferring otolaryngologic procedures a high risk of aerosolization. Surgical procedures must be categorized according to aerosolization risk and the possibility of COVID-19 diagnosis, according to use of personal protective equipment.

Implications for practice: This review contributes to scientific knowledge regarding the detailed description of protective personal equipment and, most important, surgical recommendations to reduce the risk of infection in the otolaryngology community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords: COVID-19; otolaryngology; protection equipment; respirators; surgery.

Publication types

  • Review