From the Journals

Bronchoscopy guideline for COVID-19 pandemic: Use sparingly



With little evidence available on the role of bronchoscopy during the COVID-19 pandemic, an expert panel has published a guideline recommending its spare use in COVID-19 patients and those with suspected COVID-19 infection.

The panel stated that in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, bronchoscopy and other aerosol-generating procedures put health care workers (HCWs) at particularly high risk of exposure and infection. They recommended deferring bronchoscopy in nonurgent cases, and advised practitioners to wear personal protective equipment when performing bronchoscopy, even on asymptomatic patients.

The guideline and expert panel report have been published online in the journal Chest. CHEST and the American Association for Bronchology and Interventional Pulmonology participated in selecting the 14 panelists. “The recommendation and suggestions outlined in this document were specifically created to address what were felt to be clinically common and urgent questions that frontline clinicians are likely to face,” wrote lead author and panel cochair Momen M. Wahidi, MD, MBA, of Duke University, Durham, N.C., and colleagues.

Only one of the six recommendations is based on graded evidence; the remainder are ungraded consensus-based statements. The guideline consists of the following recommendations for performing or using bronchoscopy:

  • HCWs in the procedure or recovery rooms should wear either an N-95 respirator or powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) when performing bronchoscopy on patients suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19. They should wear personal protective equipment (PPE) that includes a face shield, gown, and gloves, and they should discard N-95 respirators after performing bronchoscopy.
  • A nasopharyngeal specimen in COVID-19 suspects should be obtained before performing bronchoscopy. If the patient has severe or progressive disease that requires intubation but an additional specimen is needed to confirm COVID-19 or another diagnosis that could change the treatment course, an option would be lower-respiratory specimen from the endotracheal aspirate or bronchoscopy with bronchoalveolar lavage.
  • HCWs should wear an N-95 or PAPR when doing bronchoscopy on asymptomatic patients in an area with community spread of COVID-19 – again, with the PPE designated in the first recommendation.
  • Test for COVID-19 before doing bronchoscopy on asymptomatic patients. Defer nonurgent bronchoscopy if the test is positive. If it’s negative, follow the recommendations regarding respirators and PPE when doing bronchoscopy.
  • Perform timely bronchoscopy when indicated even in an area with known community spread of COVID-19. This is the only graded recommendation among the six (Grade 2C) and may be the most nuanced. Local teams should develop strategies for using bronchoscopy in their setting, taking into account local resources and availability of PPE, and they should send noninfected cancer patients from resource-depleted hospitals to other centers.
  • Base the timing of bronchoscopy in patients recovering after COVID-19 on the indication for the procedure, disease severity, and time duration since symptoms resolved. The recommendation noted that the exact timing is still unknown, but that a wait of at least 30 days after symptoms recede is “reasonable.”

The expert panel added a noteworthy caveat to the recommendations. “We would like to stress that these protective strategies can be rendered completely ineffective if proper training on donning and doffing is not provided to HCW,” Dr. Wahidi and colleagues wrote. “Proper personnel instruction and practice for wearing PPE should receive as much attention by health facilities as the chosen strategy for protection.”

Dr. Wahidi and colleagues have no financial relationships to disclose.

SOURCE: Wahidi MM et al. CHEST. 2020 Apr 30. doi: 10.1016/j.chest.2020.04.036.

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