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A Framework for Prioritizing Head and Neck Surgery during the COVID-19 Pandemic
  • Michael C. Topf et Al.
Michael C. Topf et Al.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has placed an extraordinary demand on the United States healthcare system. Many institutions have cancelled elective and non-urgent procedures to conserve resources and limit exposure. While operational definitions of elective and urgent categories exist, there is a degree of surgeon judgment in designation. In the present commentary, we provide a framework for prioritizing head and neck surgery during the pandemic. Unique considerations for the head and neck patient are examined including risk to the oncology patient, outcomes following delay in head and neck cancer therapy, and risk of transmission during otolaryngologic surgery. Our case prioritization criteria consist of four categories: urgent – proceed with surgery, less urgent – consider postpone > 30 days, less urgent – consider postpone 30–90 days, and case-by-case basis. Finally, we discuss our preoperative clinical pathway for transmission mitigation including defining low-risk and high-risk surgery for transmission and role of preoperative COVID-19 testing.