The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has become a major public health crisis. The diagnostic and containment efforts for the disease have presented significant challenges for the global healthcare community. In this brief report, we provide perspective on the potential use of salivary specimens for detection and serial monitoring of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), based on current literature. Oral healthcare providers are at an elevated risk of exposure to COVID-19 due to their proximity to nasopharynx of patients, and the practice involving the use of aerosol-generating equipment. Here we summarize the general guidelines for oral healthcare specialists for prevention of nosocomial transmission of COVID-19, and provide specific recommendations for clinical care management.
Background: Management of head and neck cancers (HNC) in Radiation Oncology in the COVID-19 era is challenging. Aim of our work is to report organization strategies at a Radiation Therapy (RT) Department in the first European area experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: We focused on 1) dedicated procedures for HNC, 2) radiation treatment scheduling and 3) healthcare professionals’ protection applied during the Covid-19 breakdown (from 1st March to 30th April 2020). Results: Applied procedures are reported and discussed. Forty-three pts were treated. Image-guided, Intensity Modulated RT was performed in all cases. Median overall treatment time (OTT) was 50 (IQR: 47-54.25) days. RT was interrupted/delayed in seven pts (16%) for suspected COVID-19 infection. Two health professionals managing HNC pts were proven as COVID-19 positive. Conclusion: Adequate and well-timed organization allowed for the optimization of HNC pts balancing at the best of our possibilities pts’ care and personnel’s safety.
Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus has altered the healthcare environment for the management of head and neck cancers. The purpose of these guidelines is to provide direction during the pandemic for rational Head and Neck Cancer management in order to achieve a medically and ethically appropriate balance of risks and benefits.Methods: Creation of consensus document.Results: The process yielded a consensus statement among a wide range of practitioners involved in the management of head and neck cancer patients in a multi-hospital tertiary care health system. Conclusions: These guidelines support an ethical approach for the management of head and neck cancers during the COVID-19 epidemic consistent with both the local standard of care as well as the head and neck oncological literature.
Background. Italy was the first European country suffering from COVID-19. Healthcare resources were redirected to manage the pandemic. We present our initial experience with the management of urgent and non-deferrable surgeries for sinus and skull base diseases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods. A retrospective review of patients treated in a single referral center during the first two months of the pandemic was performed. A comparison between the last two-month period and the same period of the previous year was carried out. Results. Twenty-four patients fulfilled the inclusion criteria. A reduction of surgical activity was observed (-60.7%). A statistically significant difference in pathologies treated was found (p = .016), with malignancies being the most frequent indication for surgery (45.8%). Conclusions. Although we feel optimistic for the future, we don’t feel it is already time to restart elective surgeries. Our experience may serve for other centers who are facing the same challenges.
Background: There are no reports regarding false positive reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) for novel coronavirus in preoperative screening.Methods: Pre-operative patients had one or two nasopharyngeal swabs, depending on low or high risk of viral transmission. Positive tests were repeated. Results: Forty-three of 52 patients required 2 or more pre-operative tests. Four (9.3%) had discrepant results (positive/negative). One of these left the COVID unit against medical advice despite an orbital abscess, with unknown true disease status. The remaining 3 of 42 (7.1%) had negative repeat RT-PCR. Although ultimately considered false positives, one had been sent to a COVID-unit postoperatively, and two had urgent surgery delayed. Assuming negative repeat RT-PCR, clear chest imaging, and lack of subsequent symptoms represent the "gold standard”, RT-PCR specificity was 0.97.Conclusions: If a false positive is suspected, we recommend chest computed tomography and repeat RT-PCR. Validated immunoglobulin testing may ultimately prove useful.
Unprecedented times call for extraordinary measures. While surgeons across the globe try to comprehend the evolving façade of the COVID 19 pandemic and improvise surgical practice to the best of their ability, the psychological impact of the stress on their own mental health and wellbeing has been underestimated. This paper aims to review the indirect and overt factors that may affect the mental health of a surgeon in the present circumstances. Furthermore, it will aim to highlight key coping mechanisms at individual and institutional level, so as to mitigate the negative psychological impact on surgeons.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on many aspects of head and neck cancer care. The uncertainty and stress resulting from these changes has led many patients and caregivers to turn to head and neck cancer advocacy groups for guidance and support. Here we outline some of the issues being faced by head and neck cancer patients during the current crisis and provide examples of programs being developed by advocacy groups to address them. We also highlight the increased utilization of these organizations that has been observed as well as some of the challenges being faced by these not-for-profit groups as they work to serve the head and neck community.
Oreste Gallo, MD; Luca Giovanni Locatello, MDDepartment of Otorhinolaryngology, Careggi University Hospital, Florence - Largo Brambilla, 3 - 50134 Florence, Italy* Corresponding author: Prof. Oreste Gallo, MD, Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Careggi University Hospital, Florence - Largo Brambilla, 3 - 50134 Firenze, Italy. +39 0557947989, oreste.gallo at unifi.itKeywords: COVID-19, laser-assisted surgery, surgical plume, prevention, surgical safetyAuthors’ contributions: Gallo: Conceptualization, supervision and writing - review and editing; Locatello: Conceptualization, resources, supervision, and writing - review and editing.Conflict of Interest: all authors declare they have nothing to disclose.This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.Many of the safety issues related to the novel COVID-19 in our routine surgical practice were thoroughly presented in this Journal.  However, the authors did not discuss an important field of head and neck surgery: laser-assisted procedures. Historically, human-papillomavirus (HPV) in the setting of respiratory recurrent papillomatosis is the prototype of the biological hazards of the laser-generated surgical plume. In the past, it was shown that surgical vaporization was capable to contaminate the staff’s personal protective equipment (PPE) with viable and infectious HPV virions.  Despite the growing evidence documenting a key role of high-risk HPV infections in the pathogenesis and development of head and neck cancer, the risk assessment of potential viral infection after exposure to laser plume is still controversial.  The biohazard might not be limited to HPV airborne transmission, but also other bacteria and viruses, including (possibly) SARS-CoV-2. For instance, Kwak et al. documented Hepatitis B (HBV) DNA in surgical smoke from 10 out of 11 HBV+ patients undergoing robotic laparoscopic surgery thus suggesting a potential risk of airborne HBV infection. Heat-generating procedures by electrosurgical equipment or lasers can induce thermal disruption of viable human cells and they are able to aerosolize hazardous particles. The thermal effect of lasers on biological tissues is a complex process resulting from the conversion of light to heat whose effects depend upon several factors: the physical denaturation and/or destruction is a function of laser settings (wavelength, power, time and mode of emission, beam profile, and spot size) and the target of the procedure (thermal parameters, optical coefficient, etc.).[5,6] During ablative surgery, the tissue is heated by the absorbed laser energy and it evaporates or sublimates, while, at higher power, the tissue is typically converted to plasma. This means that during laser-tissue interaction aerosolized blood and interstitial and intracellular fluids, along with their possible burden of viral pathogens and hazardous chemicals are forcefully ejected in the operating room. Nonetheless, controversies exist in the literature regarding efficient viral infection of healthcare staff after exposure to surgical smoke. [3,5,6]Surgical use of different types of lasers (CO2, Nd:YAG, KTP…) is common not only in the head and neck but also in gynecology, dermatology, and respiratory medicine among other fields. Even though there is a lack of conclusive data on plume-borne contamination, there is an urgent need to raise awareness of its risks during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the next years, our daily practice of transoral laser-assisted surgery, an incontournable strategy to treat several benign and malignant lesions of the upper aerodigestive tract with excellent oncological and functional results, is going to be deeply modified. High viral loads, especially in the nose and the pharynx, can be detected after symptom onset but general consensus exists on SARS-CoV-2 diffusion by droplet transmission even from asymptomatic individuals, therefore it is conceivable that every laser procedure is to be considered as high-risk.While waiting for more robust specific evidence, we would like to recall some precautionary measures, inspired by the most recent literature, that ought to be implemented for all laser-assisted procedures:Always discuss alternative therapeutic strategies in a multidisciplinary team and postpone laser therapy if it is not urgent;Perform RT-PCR test for detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA before every procedure;During routine preoperative exams, non-enhanced chest computed tomography is reported to have a higher sensitivity for COVID-19 detection than RT-PCR;For small and easily accessible lesions, resection by cold instruments should be preferred;Laser surgery should be performed in an operating room with a highly efficient negative-pressure system;Sterilize laser handpieces after use and frequently change surgical gloves, especially after direct contact with the instrument;8. All the staff should wear highly protective PPE, including goggles and gloves and highly protective masks (i.e., N95) with gas adsorption filters;9. Disposable double plume evacuation systems with filters that remove particulates up to 0.1 microns (the so-called ULPA, ultra-low particulate air filters) should be available;10. Reduce the presence in the theater of all the unnecessary personnel and perform adequate training for all staff members to enhance awareness about the hazards of the surgical smoke in the COVID-19 outbreak.In this evolving context, head and neck laser-assisted surgery must be in all cases considered a high-risk aerosol-generating procedure and the highest attention must be paid to surgical safety until evidence-based protocols are available.
Background: As reported by increasing literature, a significant number of patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection developed smell/taste disorders.Aim of this study is to determine prevalence and severity of these symptoms among laboratory confirmed SARS-CoV-2 patients. Secondary objective is to determine their onset/recovery time.Methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted from March 10th to March 30th 2020 at Novara University Hospital during the COVID-19 Italian outbreak. The 355 enrolled patients answered a questionnaire at 14th (or more) days after proven infection.Results: The overall population prevalence of both smell/taste or one of the two disorders was 70%. They were first symptoms in 31 (8,7%) patients.Most patients reported a complete loss that in half of the cases (49.5%) was fully recovered after 14 days, with a median recovery time of 10 days.Conclusion: This study confirms high prevalence of smell/taste disorders in COVID-19 infection with self-recovery for half cases after about two weeks.