Airway management guidance for the endemic phase of COVID-19

Anaesthesia. 2021 Feb;76(2):251-260. doi: 10.1111/anae.15253. Epub 2020 Sep 13.

Abstract

It is now apparent that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) will remain endemic for some time. Improved therapeutics and a vaccine may shorten this period, but both are far from certain. Plans must be put in place on the assumption that the virus and its disease will continue to affect the care of patients and the safety of staff. This will impact particularly on airway management due to the inherent risk to staff during such procedures. Research is needed to clarify the nature and risk of respiratory aerosol-generating procedures. Improved knowledge of the dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 infection and immunity is also required. In the meantime, we describe the current status of airway management during the endemic phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some controversies remain unresolved, but the safety of patients and staff remains paramount. Current evidence does not support or necessitate dramatic changes to choices for anaesthetic airway management. Theatre efficiency and training issues are a challenge that must be addressed, and new information may enable this.

Keywords: COVID-19; airway; anaesthesia; coronavirus; intubation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Airway Management / methods*
  • Anesthesia
  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Infection Control
  • Operating Rooms / organization & administration
  • Pandemics*
  • Personal Protective Equipment