Screening and testing for COVID-19 before surgery

Joshua G. Kovoor, David R. Tivey, Penny Williamson, Lorwai Tan, Helena S. Kopunic, Wendy J. Babidge, Trevor G. Collinson, Peter J. Hewett, Thomas J. Hugh, Robert T.A. Padbury, Mark Frydenberg, Richard G. Douglas, Jen Kok, Guy J. Maddern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Preoperative screening for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) aims to preserve surgical safety for both patients and surgical teams. This rapid review provides an evaluation of current evidence with input from clinical experts to produce guidance for screening for active COVID-19 in a low prevalence setting. Methods: An initial search of PubMed (until 6 May 2020) was combined with targeted searches of both PubMed and Google Scholar until 1 July 2020. Findings were streamlined for clinical relevance through the advice of an expert working group that included seven senior surgeons and a senior medical virologist. Results: Patient history should be examined for potential exposure to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Hyposmia and hypogeusia may present as early symptoms of COVID-19, and can potentially discriminate from other influenza-like illnesses. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction is the gold standard diagnostic test to confirm SARS-CoV-2 infection, and although sensitivity can be improved with repeated testing, the decision to retest should incorporate clinical history and the local supply of diagnostic resources. At present, routine serological testing has little utility for diagnosing acute infection. To appropriately conduct preoperative testing, the temporal dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 must be considered. Relative to other thoracic imaging modalities, computed tomography has the greatest utility for characterizing pulmonary involvement in COVID-19 patients who have been diagnosed by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. Conclusion: Through a rapid review of the literature and advice from a clinical expert working group, evidence-based recommendations have been produced for the preoperative screening of surgical patients with suspected COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1845-1856
Number of pages12
JournalANZ Journal of Surgery
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • COVID-19
  • imaging
  • screening
  • surgery
  • testing


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