A Survey of Personnel Protective equipment's (PPE) Use and Comfort Levels Among Surgeons During Routine Cancer Surgery in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Indian J Surg Oncol. 2021 Jun;12(2):365-373. doi: 10.1007/s13193-021-01316-6. Epub 2021 Mar 26.


Personnel protective equipment (PPE) are recommended during surgery even in COVID-19 negative patients especially in a high-prevalence region due to its higher false-negative rates. However, the use of PPE has not been universal mainly due to the perception of discomfort and associated stress and fatigue. This study was done to understand the pattern of PPE use by cancer surgeons during the pandemic and the associated discomfort, stress, and fatigue with its use. The survey, consisting of 29 questions, was circulated widely across the country by email and chat groups among cancer surgeons. The study was registered with the Clinical Trials Registry of India (CTRI/2020/08/027050). We received a total of 342 evaluable responses that could be included for analysis. All the respondents used appropriate PPE in different combinations. N-95 mask and the face shield were the two components of the PPE that gave rise to a lot of discomforts. Fogging (of face shields) (p < 0.001,OR 3.61), dryness of mouth (p < 0.001,OR 3.35), and breathing difficulty/feeling of suffocation (p = 0.034,OR 1.68) contributed to the stress, whereas headache (p < 0.001,OR 11.34) and breathing difficulty/feeling of suffocation (p < 0.001,OR 4.24) contributed to the fatigue associated with PPE use the most. PPE was routinely used during cancer surgery in COVID-19 negative patients during the pandemic. However, most surgeons experienced different degrees of discomfort, especially with the N-95 masks and eye protection.

Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s13193-021-01316-6.

Keywords: COVID-19 negative; Cancer surgery; Discomfort; PPE; Routine.