Aerosolization and Fluid Spillage During Phacoemulsification in Human Subjects

Clin Ophthalmol. 2021 Jan 27;15:307-313. doi: 10.2147/OPTH.S294778. eCollection 2021.

Abstract

Background: Concerns had been raised for the potential hazard of SARS-CoV-2 transmissions via aerosols and fluid droplets during cataract surgeries amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This study aims to evaluate the rate of visible aerosol generation and fluid spillage from surgical wounds during phacoemulsification in human subjects.

Methods: This is a prospective consecutive interventional case series. High-resolution video captures of 30 consecutive uncomplicated phacoemulsification surgeries, performed by 3 board-certified specialists in ophthalmology, were assessed by 2 independent and masked investigators for intraoperative aerosolization and fluid spillage. Water-contact indicator tape was mounted on the base of the operating microscope, around the objective lens, to detect any fluid contact.

Results: No visible intraoperative aerosolization was detected in any of the cases, irrespective of different surgical practices among the surgeons with regard to wound size and position, lens fragmentation technique, power settings and means of ocular lubrication, or the different densities of cataract encountered. Large droplets spillage was noted from the paracentesis wounds in 70% of the cases. For all cases where fluid spill was detected on video, there was no fluid contact detected on the water-contact indicator tape.

Conclusion: Visible aerosolization was not detected during phacoemulsification in our case series. Although the rate of fluid spillage was high, the lack of detectable contact with the indicator tape suggested that these large droplets posed no significant infectious risks to members of the surgical team.

Keywords: COVID; aerosolization; aerosols; droplets; phacoemulsification.