Use of Personal Protective Equipment during Surgical Procedures Including Aerosol-Generating Procedures in Reducing the Risk of SARS-CoV-2 Viral Transmission: A Rapid Review

  • Valentin C. Dones III University of the Philippines
  • Maria Cristina Z. San Jose Department of Neurosciences, College of Medicine and Philippine General Hospital, University of the Philippines, Manila
  • Howell G. Bayona St. Luke's Medical Center Global City
Keywords: personal protective equipment, aerosol-generating procedures, COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, surgery


Introduction. COVID-19 infection spreads through respiratory droplets, contact, and airborne transmission. During aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs), the risk of spreading SARS-CoV-2 via aerosols is increased significantly. This rapid review determined the association between using personal protective equipment (PPE) during AGPs, including those during surgery, among confirmed or suspected patients with COVID-19 and the risk of infection among healthcare workers.

Method. A systematic search of electronic databases MEDLINE, EBSCO, Science Direct, Google Scholar, and Cochrane CENTRAL base was performed last March 21, 2021, using the Boolean combination of keywords for SARS-CoV-2, PPE, and surgery. Two reviewers screened the articles for relevance and extracted the data from the included studies. We critically appraised the included studies using criteria from the Painless Evidence-Based Medicine Evaluation of Articles on Harm. We used RevMan for data pooling, with a 40% heterogeneity cut-off score. GRADEpro guideline development tool determined the quality of evidence of the included studies.

Results. Five observational studies investigated the effectiveness of PPE use in reducing SARS-CoV-2 transmission among healthcare workers during any AGPs. The use of N95 masks (OR 0.37 [95% CI 0.21, 0.67], 1 study, n=195), surgical gown (OR 0.59 [95% CI 0.46, 0.77] I2= 0%, 2 studies, n= 941) and gloves (OR 0.42 [95% CI 0.43, 0.55] I2=34%, 3 studies, n=978) versus their non-use significantly reduced the odds of SARS-COV-2 transmission among healthcare workers involved in AGP. Albeit inconclusive due to the very low quality of evidence, using face shields or goggles was not associated with a significant reduction in the odds of SARS-CoV-2 transmission (OR 0.70 [95% CI 0.31, 1.59]) than the non-use of face shields or goggles. The certainty of the overall body of evidence on PPE use in reducing SARS-CoV-2 transmission during AGP procedures was rated very low. In addition, confounders in the assessment could have been using individual PPE with the other standard PPE, compliance of healthcare worker on properly wearing it, and observing other preventive measures.

Conclusion. There were lower odds of COVID-19 infection among healthcare workers using appropriate PPE, including N95 respirators, surgical gowns, and gloves during AGPs in suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients. Several guidelines recommended using enhanced PPE among healthcare workers during surgery despite limited and low-quality evidence. The findings should help in developing recommendations in reducing SARS-CoV-2 transmission in the Philippines. The findings should provide the information needed for healthcare policy decision-making.