COVID-19 in the endoscopy unit: How likely is transmission of infection? Results from an international, multicenter study

BACKGROUND Coronavirus disease 2019(COVID-19) significantly affected endoscopy practice,as gastrointestinal endoscopy is considered a risky procedure for transmission of infection to patients and personnel of endoscopy units(PEU).AIM To assess the impact of COVID-19 on endoscopy during the first European lockdown(March-May 2020).METHODS Patients undergoing endoscopy in nine endoscopy units across six European countries during the period of the first European lockdown for COVID-19(MarchMay 2020) were included. Prior to the endoscopy procedure, participants were stratified as low-or high-risk for potential COVID-19 infection according to the European Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy(ESGE) and the European Society of Gastroenterology and Endoscopy Nurses and Associates(ESGENA) joint statement, and contacted 7-14 d later to assess COVID-19 infection status. PEU were questioned regarding COVID-19 symptoms and/or infection via questionnaire, while information regarding hospitalizations, intensive care unitadmissions and COVID-19-related deaths were collected. The number of weekly endoscopies at each center during the lockdown period was also recorded.RESULTS A total of 1267 endoscopies were performed in 1222 individuals across nine European endoscopy departments in six countries. Eighty-seven(7%) were excluded because of initial positive testing. Of the 1135 pre-endoscopy low risk or polymerase chain reaction negative for COVID-19, 254(22.4%) were tested post endoscopy and 8 were eventually found positive, resulting in an infection rate of 0.7% [(95%CI: 0.2-0.12]. The majority(6 of the 8 patients, 75%) had undergone esophagogastroduodenoscopy. Of the 163 PEU, 5 [3%;(95%CI: 0.4-5.7)] tested positive during the study period. A decrease of 68.7%(95%CI: 64.8-72.7) in the number of weekly endoscopies was recorded in all centers after March 2020. All centers implemented appropriate personal protective measures(PPM) from the initial phases of the lockdown.CONCLUSION COVID-19 transmission in endoscopy units is highly unlikely in a lockdown setting, provided endoscopies are restricted to emergency cases and PPM are implemented.

COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; Gastrointestinal endoscopy; Personal protection measures; Transmission; Lockdown;


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