Testing kids for COVID-19 before anesthesia can save PPE, study says

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Testing all pediatric patients for COVID-19 before they undergo procedures requiring anesthesia may help conserve personal protective equipment, according to research presented at the American Society of Anesthesiologists' 2020 annual meeting.

Between March 26 and May 11, patients scheduled to undergo anesthesia at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia were tested for COVID-19 using the polymerase chain reaction test. Their results were compared to those of patients believed to be infected based on verbal screening. Overall, 1,033 children were included in the study.

A total of 146 children verbally screened for COVID-19 were identified as positive based on travel history, close contact/exposure to the disease and symptoms.

However, 102 of those patients verbally screened positive actually had a negative COVID-19 PCR test, allowing them to be treated with standard PPE. Ten children who verbally screened negative for COVID-19 tested positive using the PCR test.

Using the PCR test to demonstrate the safety of proceeding without CDC-recommended PPE helped reduce PPE use by 70 percent.

"This study links the importance of universal testing for COVID-19, increased safety of staff and efficient use of PPE, especially items such as N95 face masks, which are in low supply," said the study's lead author, Lenard Babus, MD, an attending pediatric anesthesiologist at CHOP. "If universal testing were used outside the hospital, outpatient facilities and other treatment centers could experience similar PPE and safety benefits."

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