Preprint Communication Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Safety Recommendations for Evaluation and Surgery of the Head and Neck during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Version 1 : Received: 26 March 2020 / Approved: 29 March 2020 / Online: 29 March 2020 (09:15:12 CEST)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.


Importance: The rapidly expanding 2019 novel coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus) has challenged the medical community to an unprecedented degree. Physicians and healthcare workers are at added risk of exposure and infection during the course of the patient care. Due to the rapid spread of this disease through respiratory droplets, healthcare providers such as otolaryngologists-head & neck surgeons who come in close contact with the upper aerodigestive tract during diagnostic and therapeutic procedures are particularly at risk. Here we present a set of safety recommendations based on our review of literature and communications with physicians with first-hand knowledge of safety procedures during the 2019 COVID-19 pandemic.Observations: A high number of healthcare providers were infected during the first phase of the pandemic in Wuhan province. Subsequently, by adopting strict safety precautions, other regions were able to achieve high levels of safety for healthcare providers without jeopardizing the care of patients. We reviewed the most common procedures related to the examination and treatment of upper aerodigestive tract diseases. Each category was reviewed based on the potential risk imposed to healthcare workers. Specific recommendations were made, based on the literature, when available, or consensus best practices. Specific safety recommendations were made for performing tracheostomy in COVID-19 patients. Conclusions and Relevance: Preserving highly skilled healthcare work force is a top priority for any community and healthcare system. Based on the experience of healthcare systems in Asia and Europe, by following strict safety guidelines, the risk of exposure and infection of healthcare providers could be significantly reduced, while providing high levels of care. The provided recommendations could be used as broad guidance for all healthcare workers who are involved with the care of COVID-19 patients.


COVID-19; tracheostomy; head and neck; otolaryngology


Medicine and Pharmacology, Otolaryngology

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