1. Is the virus present in the vaginal fluid of women infected with COVID-19?
Recent studies have confirmed the presence of viral particles in urine, feces, blood, and tears in addition to the respiratory tract in patients infected with COVID-19.3,14,15 The presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the female genital system is currently unknown. Previous studies, of other epidemic viral infections, have demonstrated the presence of the virus in the female genital tract in affected patients of Zika virus and Ebola.16,17 However, 2 recent studies have failed to demonstrate the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the vaginal fluid of pregnant14 and not pregnant18 women with severe COVID-19 infection.
2. Is there risk of viral dissemination during hysteroscopy if using electrosurgery?
There are significant concerns with possible risk of COVID-19 transmission to health care providers in direct contact with infected patients during minimally invasive gynecologic procedures due to direct contamination and aerosolization of the virus.10,19 Current data on COVID-19 transmission during surgery are limited. However, it is important to recognize that viral aerosolization has been documented with other viral diseases, such as human papillomavirus and hepatitis B.20 A recent report called for awareness in the surgical community about the potential risks of COVID-19 viral dissemination during laparoscopic surgery. Among other recommendations, international experts advised minimizing the use of electrosurgery to reduce the creation of surgical plume, decreasing the pneumoperitoneum pressure to minimum levels, and using suction devices in a closed system.21 Although these preventive measures apply to laparoscopic surgery, it is important to consider that hysteroscopy is performed in a unique environment.
During hysteroscopy the uterine cavity is distended with a liquid medium (normal saline or electrolyte-free solutions); this is opposed to gynecologic laparoscopy, in which the peritoneal cavity is distended with carbon dioxide.22 The smoke produced with the use of hysteroscopic electrosurgical instruments generates bubbles that are immediately cooled down to the temperature of the distention media and subsequently dissolve into it. Therefore, there are no bubbles generated during hysteroscopic surgery that are subsequently released into the air. This results in a low risk for viral dissemination during hysteroscopic procedures. Nevertheless, the necessary precautions to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission during hysteroscopic intervention are extremely important.
Recommendations for hysteroscopic procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic
We provide our overall recommendations for hysteroscopy, as well as those specific to the office and hospital setting.
Limit hysteroscopic procedures to COVID-19–negative patients and to those patients in whom delaying the procedure could result in adverse clinical outcomes.23
Universally screen for potential COVID-19 infection. When possible, a phone interview to triage patients based on their symptoms and infection exposure status should take place before the patient arrives to the health care center. Patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection who require immediate evaluation should be directed to COVID-19–designated emergency areas.
Universally test for SARS-CoV-2 before procedures performed in the operating room (OR). Using nasopharyngeal swabs for the detection of viral RNA, employing molecular methods such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR), within 48 to 72 hours prior to all OR hysteroscopic procedures is strongly recommended. Adopting this testing strategy will aid to identify asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2‒infected patients, allowing to defer the procedure, if possible, among patients testing positive. If tests are limited, testing only patients scheduled for hysteroscopic procedures in which general or regional anesthesia will be required is acceptable.
Universal SARS-CoV-2 testing of patients undergoing in-office hysteroscopic diagnostic or minor operative procedures without the use of anesthesia is not required.
Limit the presence of a companion. It is understood that visitor policies may vary at the discretion of each institution’s guidelines. Children and individuals over the age of 60 years should not be granted access to the center. Companions will be subjected to the same screening criteria as patients.
Provide for social distancing and other precautionary measures. If more than one patient is scheduled to be at the facility at the same time, ensure that the facility provides adequate space to allow the appropriate social distancing recommendations between patients. Hand sanitizers and facemasks should be available for patients and companions.
Provide PPE for clinicians. All health care providers in close contact with the patient must wear personal protective equipment (PPE), which includes an apron and gown, a surgical mask, eye protection, and gloves. Health care providers should wear PPE deemed appropriate by their regulatory institutions following their local and national guidelines during clinical patient interactions.
Restrict surgical attendees to vital personnel. The participation of learners by physical presence in the office or operating room should be restricted.
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