Recommendations for head and neck surgical procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic

Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2020;75:e2084. doi: 10.6061/clinics/2020/e2084. Epub 2020 Jul 6.

Abstract

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has spread exponentially worldwide. In Brazil, the number of infected people diagnosed has been increasing and, as in other countries, it has been associated with a high risk of contamination in healthcare teams. For healthcare professionals, the full use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is mandatory, such as wearing surgical or filtering facepiece class 2 (FFP2) masks, waterproof aprons, gloves, and goggles, in addition to training in care processes. A reduction in the number of face-to-face visits and non-essential elective procedures is also recommended. However, surgery should not be postponed in the case of the most essential elective indications (mostly associated with head and neck cancers). As malignant tumors of the head and neck are clinically time sensitive, neither consultations for these tumors nor their treatment should be postponed. Postponing surgical treatment can result in a change in the disease stage and alter an individual's chance of survival. In this situation, planning of all treatments must begin with the request for, in addition to routine examinations, a nasal swab polymerase chain reaction for SARS-CoV-2 and chest computed tomography. Only if the results of these tests are positive or if fever or other symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 are present should the surgical procedure be postponed until the patient completely recovers. This is mandatory not only because of the risk of contamination of the surgical team but also because of the increased risk of postoperative complications and high risk of death. During this pandemic, the most effective safety measures are social distancing for the general public and the adequate availability and use of PPE in the healthcare field. The treatment of other chronic diseases, such as cancer, should be continued, as the damming of cases of these diseases will have a deleterious effect on the public healthcare system.