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COVID-19
versus
SURGERY
Ozimo Gama, Md PhD
Ozimo Gama, Md PhD
1. PREPARE FOR A RAPIDLY EVOLVING SITUATION.
Any pathways and plans need to be developed with a recognition
that the severity of the situation and the availability of resources
may change on a daily basis.
Ozimo Gama, Md PhD
2. POSTPONE ELECTIVE OPERATIONS IMMEDIATELY.
Elective surgeries should ideally be postponed before it seems
necessary. Postponing surgeries will reduce unnecessary patient
traffic in the hospital and decrease the introduction and spread of
disease between symptomatic and asymptomatic patients and health
care staff.
Ozimo Gama, Md PhD
3. DEVELOP A CLEAR PLAN FOR PROVIDING ESSENTIAL OPERATIONS DURING THE PANDEMIC.
This should include a plan to facilitate emergent life and limb saving surgeries as
well as urgent surgeries such as cancer surgeries where long-term outcomes are
dependent on timely interventions. The process should allow for the application
of reasonable clinical judgement. For example, the biopsy of a suspicious breast
lump is elective but cannot be postponed.
Ozimo Gama, Md PhD
4. EDUCATE ALL SURGICAL STAFF ON PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT AND COVID-19 MANAGEMENT.
The appropriate use of personal protective equipment protects patients and staff from COVID-19 transmission,
and yet these items are often not used appropriately. N95 masks that have been clearly shown to reduce
transmission in a laboratory setting rarely work as well in practice. This is in large part because of a lack of
awareness of appropriate donning and doffing procedures. All members of the surgical team should be trained
in appropriate use of personal protective equipment. The risk of transmission and resource consumption in
educational simulation sessions means that other forms of education must be undertaken. Our current
situation should serve as a reminder of the importance of training for disasters and pandemics before the
need arises.
Ozimo Gama, Md PhD
5. DECREASE EXPOSURE OF HEALTH CARE STAFF.
For confirmed COVID-19 cases or cases where there is an active influenza-like illness, limiting operating
theater staff to the essential members is key. Trainees, in particular, should not be involved with cases
unnecessarily. As COVID19 becomes further established in our communities, asymptomatic patients who
are carriers will increasingly enter the health care system for unrelated ailments and pose a risk for
transmission. For this reason, reasonable measures should be taken even in asymptomatic patients such
as strict adherence to universal precautions, frequent handwashing, and elimination of unnecessary staff.
Keeping surgical staff out of hospital and self-isolating at home when they are not needed is a key
measure to preserving our human resources.
Ozimo Gama, Md PhD
6. DEVELOP A DEDICATED COVID-19 OPERATING SPACE.
The development of a dedicated COVID-19 operating theater may help to
contain the spread of disease. The experience from centers such as
Singapore as well as centers that have seen high volumes of cases in
other parts of the world including within the United States and Canada
provide some guidance on how these systems can be optimally designed.
Ozimo Gama, Md PhD
7. THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE OF THE PANDEMIC MAY REQUIRE PATIENT TRANSFERS
AND REPURPOSING OPERATING THEATERS TO SUPPORT CRITICAL CARE PATIENTS.
The intensive care needs of the COVID-19 patient population will be substantial, and may
quickly overwhelm the systems that provide critical care. Operating theaters are
optimally designed to provide support for ventilated patients and may become precious
resources for the ongoing care of patients typically managed in the intensive care unit.

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COVID19 and SURGERY

  • 2. Ozimo Gama, Md PhD 1. PREPARE FOR A RAPIDLY EVOLVING SITUATION. Any pathways and plans need to be developed with a recognition that the severity of the situation and the availability of resources may change on a daily basis.
  • 3. Ozimo Gama, Md PhD 2. POSTPONE ELECTIVE OPERATIONS IMMEDIATELY. Elective surgeries should ideally be postponed before it seems necessary. Postponing surgeries will reduce unnecessary patient traffic in the hospital and decrease the introduction and spread of disease between symptomatic and asymptomatic patients and health care staff.
  • 4. Ozimo Gama, Md PhD 3. DEVELOP A CLEAR PLAN FOR PROVIDING ESSENTIAL OPERATIONS DURING THE PANDEMIC. This should include a plan to facilitate emergent life and limb saving surgeries as well as urgent surgeries such as cancer surgeries where long-term outcomes are dependent on timely interventions. The process should allow for the application of reasonable clinical judgement. For example, the biopsy of a suspicious breast lump is elective but cannot be postponed.
  • 5. Ozimo Gama, Md PhD 4. EDUCATE ALL SURGICAL STAFF ON PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT AND COVID-19 MANAGEMENT. The appropriate use of personal protective equipment protects patients and staff from COVID-19 transmission, and yet these items are often not used appropriately. N95 masks that have been clearly shown to reduce transmission in a laboratory setting rarely work as well in practice. This is in large part because of a lack of awareness of appropriate donning and doffing procedures. All members of the surgical team should be trained in appropriate use of personal protective equipment. The risk of transmission and resource consumption in educational simulation sessions means that other forms of education must be undertaken. Our current situation should serve as a reminder of the importance of training for disasters and pandemics before the need arises.
  • 6. Ozimo Gama, Md PhD 5. DECREASE EXPOSURE OF HEALTH CARE STAFF. For confirmed COVID-19 cases or cases where there is an active influenza-like illness, limiting operating theater staff to the essential members is key. Trainees, in particular, should not be involved with cases unnecessarily. As COVID19 becomes further established in our communities, asymptomatic patients who are carriers will increasingly enter the health care system for unrelated ailments and pose a risk for transmission. For this reason, reasonable measures should be taken even in asymptomatic patients such as strict adherence to universal precautions, frequent handwashing, and elimination of unnecessary staff. Keeping surgical staff out of hospital and self-isolating at home when they are not needed is a key measure to preserving our human resources.
  • 7. Ozimo Gama, Md PhD 6. DEVELOP A DEDICATED COVID-19 OPERATING SPACE. The development of a dedicated COVID-19 operating theater may help to contain the spread of disease. The experience from centers such as Singapore as well as centers that have seen high volumes of cases in other parts of the world including within the United States and Canada provide some guidance on how these systems can be optimally designed.
  • 8. Ozimo Gama, Md PhD 7. THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE OF THE PANDEMIC MAY REQUIRE PATIENT TRANSFERS AND REPURPOSING OPERATING THEATERS TO SUPPORT CRITICAL CARE PATIENTS. The intensive care needs of the COVID-19 patient population will be substantial, and may quickly overwhelm the systems that provide critical care. Operating theaters are optimally designed to provide support for ventilated patients and may become precious resources for the ongoing care of patients typically managed in the intensive care unit.