Surgical Techniques

Hysteroscopy and COVID-19: Have recommended techniques changed due to the pandemic?

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Be cognizant to follow these recommendations for minimizing the risk of viral spread during hysteroscopic procedure



The emergence of the coronavirus severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection (COVID-19) in December 2019, has resulted in a global pandemic that has challenged the medical community and will continue to represent a public health emergency for the next several months.1 It has rapidly spread globally, infecting many individuals in an unprecedented rate of infection and worldwide reach. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization designated COVID-19 as a pandemic. While the majority of infected individuals are asymptomatic or develop only mild symptoms, some have an unfortunate clinical course resulting in multi-organ failure and death.2

It is accepted that the virus mainly spreads during close contact and via respiratory droplets.3 The average time from infection to onset of symptoms ranges from 2 to 14 days, with an average of 5 days.4 Recommended measures to prevent the spread of the infection include social distancing (at least 6 feet from others), meticulous hand hygiene, and wearing a mask covering the mouth and nose when in public.5 Aiming to mitigate the risk of viral dissemination for patients and health care providers, and to preserve hospital resources, all nonessential medical interventions were initially suspended. Recently, the American College of Surgeons in a joint statement with 9 women’s health care societies have provided recommendations on how to resume clinical activities as we recover from the pandemic.6

As we reinitiate clinical activities, gynecologists have been alerted of the potential risk of viral dissemination during gynecologic minimally invasive surgical procedures due to the presence of the virus in blood, stool, and the potential risk of aerosolization of the virus, especially when using smoke-generating devices.7,8 This risk is not limited to intubation and extubation of the airway during anesthesia; the risk also presents itself during other aerosol-generating procedures, such as laparoscopy or robotic surgery.9,10

Hysteroscopy is considered the gold standard procedure for the diagnosis and management of intrauterine pathologies.11 It is frequently performed in an office setting without the use of anesthesia.11,12 It is usually well tolerated, with only a few patients reporting discomfort.12 It allows for immediate treatment (using the “see and treat” approach) while avoiding not only the risk of anesthesia, as stated, but also the need for intubation—which has a high risk of droplet contamination in COVID-19–infected individuals.13

Is there risk of viral dissemination during hysteroscopic procedures?

The novel and rapidly changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic present many challenges to the gynecologist. Significant concerns have been raised regarding potential risk of viral dissemination during laparoscopic surgery due to aerosolization of viral particles and the presence of the virus in blood and the gastrointestinal tract of infected patients.7 Diagnostic, and some simple, hysteroscopic procedures are commonly performed in an outpatient setting, with the patient awake. Complex hysteroscopic interventions, however, are generally performed in the operating room, typically with the use of general anesthesia. Hysteroscopy has the theoretical risks of viral dissemination when performed in COVID-19–positive patients. Two important questions must be addressed to better understand the potential risk of COVID-19 viral dissemination during hysteroscopic procedures.

Continue to: 1. Is the virus present in the vaginal fluid of women infected with COVID-19?...


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