COVID‐19 safety: aerosol‐generating procedures and cardiothoracic surgery and anaesthesia — Australian and New Zealand consensus statement

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Introduction

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19) is a contagious disease that is caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS‐CoV‐2). Health care workers are at risk of infection from aerosolisation of respiratory secretions, droplet and contact spread. There are a number of procedures that represent a high risk of aerosol generation during cardiothoracic surgery. It is important that adequate training, equipment and procedures are in place to reduce that risk.

Recommendations

We provide a number of key recommendations, which reduce the risk of aerosol generation during cardiothoracic surgery and help protect patients and staff. These include general measures such as patient risk stratification, appropriate use of personal protective equipment, consideration to delay surgery in positive patients, and careful attention to theatre planning and preparation. There are also recommended procedural interventions during airway management, transoesophageal echocardiography, cardiopulmonary bypass, chest drain management and specific cardiothoracic surgical procedures. Controversies exist regarding the management of low risk patients undergoing procedures at high risk of aerosol generation, and recommendations for these patients will change depending on the regional prevalence, risk of community transmission and the potential for asymptomatic patients attending for these procedures.

Changes in management as a result of this statement

This statement reflects changes in management based on expert opinion, national guidelines and available evidence. Our knowledge with regard to COVID‐19 continues to evolve and with this, guidance may change and develop. Our colleagues are urged to follow national guidelines and institutional recommendations regarding best practices to protect their patients and themselves.

Endorsed by

Australian and New Zealand Society of Cardiac and Thoracic Surgeons and the Anaesthetic Continuing Education Cardiac Thoracic Vascular and Perfusion Special Interest Group.

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