Mandatory preprocedurual COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic patients does not necessarily decrease rates of infection among health care workers (HCWs), according to study results published in CHEST.
Bronchoscopy is an aerosol-generating procedure; therefore, several medical societies have recommended methods to reduce the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 among HCWs and patients. These recommendations included mandating universal COVID-19 testing, which may have contributed to the delay of necessary medical procedures and have added burdens to the health care system and the patients themselves.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the University of Florida has had a flexible policy regarding preprocedural COVID-19 testing, wherein all patients and visitors are symptomatically screened and asked about recent travel history and exposure to COVID-19-positive patients. A temperature check is also performed at the hospital entrance and preprocedural COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing is up to the individual provider and procedural team discretion.
Out of 664 patients who underwent outpatient bronchoscopies between March 2020 and February 2021, researchers at the university found that 172 (25.9%) patients were tested for COVID-19 in the 30 days before the procedure at the provider’s discretion and none of these tests came back positive. A total of 114 (17.2%) patients were tested in the 30 days following the procedure and of those, only 1 patient (0.8%) tested positive 27 days after the procedure. During the study period, there were zero COVID-19 infections among the bronchoscopy suite staff workers.
“We believe that both wearing adequate PPE, and now vaccination, are the biggest deterrents in protecting HCW from COVID-19 infection,” the study authors wrote. “Further research is needed to replicate these findings and to determine the best course of action regarding surgical procedure guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Abbas HK, Alzghoul BN, Jaber JF, Mehta HJ. Low risk of COVID-19 infection amongst bronchoscopy suite personnel in a hospital without pre-procedural outpatient testing mandate. CHEST. Published online May 8, 2021. doi:10.1016/j.chest.2021.05.004