Personal Protective Equipment and Evidence-Based Advice for Surgical Departments during COVID-19

ANZ J Surg. 2020 Jul 15. doi: 10.1111/ans.16194. Online ahead of print.


Background: Inconsistencies regarding the use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) have raised concerns for the safety of surgical staff during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. This rapid review synthesises the literature that includes input from clinical experts to provide evidence-based guidance for surgical services.

Methods: The rapid review comprised of targeted searches in PubMed and grey literature. Pertinent findings were discussed by a working group of clinical experts, and consensus recommendations, consistent with Australian and New Zealand Government guidelines, were formulated.

Results: There was a paucity of high-quality primary studies specifically investigating appropriate surgical PPE for healthcare workers treating patients possibly infected with COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2 is capable of aerosol, droplet and fomite transmission, making it essential to augment standard infection control measures with appropriate PPE, especially during surgical emergencies and aerosol-generating procedures. All biological material should be treated a potential source of SARS-COV-2. Staff must have formal training in the use of PPE and should be supervised by a colleague during donning and doffing. Patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should wear a surgical mask during transfer to and from theatre. Potential solutions exist in the literature to extend the use of surgical P2/N95 respirators in situations of limited supply.

Conclusion: PPE is advised for all high-risk procedures and when a patient's COVID-19 status is unknown. Surgical departments should facilitate staggered rostering, remote meeting attendance, and self-isolation of symptomatic staff. Vulnerable surgical staff should be identified and excluded from operations with a high risk of COVID-19 infection.

Keywords: COVID-19; Healthcare workers; Personal Protective Equipment; Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2); Specialties; Surgical.