Personal protective equipment and evidence-based advice for surgical departments during COVID-19

Lorwai Tan, Joshua G. Kovoor, Penny Williamson, David R. Tivey, Wendy J. Babidge, Trevor G. Collinson, Peter J. Hewett, Thomas J. Hugh, Robert T.A. Padbury, Sally J. Langley, Guy J. Maddern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Inconsistencies regarding the use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) have raised concerns for the safety of surgical staff during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. This rapid review synthesizes the literature and includes input from clinical experts to provide evidence-based guidance for surgical services. Methods: The rapid review comprised of targeted searches in PubMed and grey literature. Pertinent findings were discussed by a working group of clinical experts, and consensus recommendations, consistent with Australian and New Zealand Government guidelines, were formulated. Results: There was a paucity of high-quality primary studies specifically investigating appropriate surgical PPE for healthcare workers treating patients possibly infected with COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2 is capable of aerosol, droplet and fomite transmission, making it essential to augment standard infection control measures with appropriate PPE, especially during surgical emergencies and aerosol-generating procedures. All biological material should be treated a potential source of SARS-COV-2. Staff must have formal training in the use of PPE and should be supervised by a colleague during donning and doffing. Patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should wear a surgical mask during transfer to and from theatre. Potential solutions exist in the literature to extend the use of surgical P2/N95 respirators in situations of limited supply. Conclusion: PPE is advised for all high-risk procedures and when a patient's COVID-19 status is unknown. Surgical departments should facilitate staggered rostering, remote meeting attendance, and self-isolation of symptomatic staff. Vulnerable surgical staff should be identified and excluded from operations with a high risk of COVID-19 infection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1566-1572
Number of pages7
JournalANZ Journal of Surgery
Issue number9
Early online date15 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2020


  • COVID-19
  • healthcare worker
  • personal protective equipment
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • surgery


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