Testing Kids for COVID-19 Up to 3 Days Before Surgery Provides Accurate Results

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Testing swab Researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) have found that preoperative testing in children for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is accurate up to three days before surgery, a finding that could lead to more efficient use of testing resources for pediatric patients. The results of the researchers’ study were reported recently in Pediatrics.

Because surgical procedures can generate aerosols or require intubation, they come with an elevated risk of exposing healthcare workers to the novel coronavirus. Preoperative screening for SARS-CoV-2 is an effective way to increase both provider and patient safety. However, due to timing and resource constraints, it is often not possible to test patients immediately before a surgical procedure. The CHOP team wanted to learn whether screening a patient one to three days in advance provided an accurate reflection of the patient’s COVID-19 status at the time of surgery.

To do so, they analyzed data from 241 pediatric patients who came to CHOP for surgery between July 10 and October 9, 2020. Under CHOP policy, all children scheduled for surgery are required to have a COVID-19 test within three days of surgery, so pre-procedural samples were taken one to three days before surgery. Another sample was taken at the time of surgery.

The researchers found that 100% of patients who tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 before their procedure also tested negative at the time of surgery.

“As pediatric specialists grapple with how to make procedures safer in the setting of COVID-19, testing guidelines must evolve based on the patient population, community prevalence, and logistical realities,” said Elaina E. Lin, MD, an anesthesiologist with the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at CHOP and first author of the study. “A negative test cannot rule out SARS-CoV-2 infection, and the use of appropriate PPE remains essential.”

Read more about the study findings here.

Contact: The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia,

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