Journal of the Practice of Cardiovascular Sciences

: 2020  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 105--107

Cardiothoracic surgery practice at a tertiary center during the COVID-19 pandemic

Milind Hote, Sanjoy Sen Gupta 
 Department of CTVS, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Milind Hote
Professor, Department of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, CT Centre, AIIMS, New Delhi - 110 029


A COVID-19 pandemic has been declared by the WHO since January 2020. In this crisis, cardiac surgeons have to ensure that essential cardiac surgery is available while ensuring that inadvertent COVID-19 does not spread among patients or to the surgical team.

How to cite this article:
Hote M, Gupta SS. Cardiothoracic surgery practice at a tertiary center during the COVID-19 pandemic.J Pract Cardiovasc Sci 2020;6:105-107

How to cite this URL:
Hote M, Gupta SS. Cardiothoracic surgery practice at a tertiary center during the COVID-19 pandemic. J Pract Cardiovasc Sci [serial online] 2020 [cited 2021 Aug 4 ];6:105-107
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Full Text

With the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, medical practice has changed and Cardiac Surgical practice has also changed.[1],[2],[3],[4],[5] Due to the lockdown and restricted travel, allocation of nursing staff and residents to COVID care and quarantine of any inadvertently exposed staff, there is shortage of staff in surgical units. Wards, beds, and ventilation equipped intensive care units (ICUs) are being kept reserved for potential escalation of the COVID-19 crisis. Blood banks cannot also provide full support as voluntary and patient-related donors are limited due to fear of hospital visit-related infections and also travel restrictions. In spite of this, cardiac surgical care has to continue for critical cardiac problems without compromising patient and health personal safety.[6],[7],[8],[9],[10],[11],[12],[13]

Elective surgery needs to be delayed because of the above and because resources have been shifted to the care of COVID-19 patients. We need to decide on:

Types of patients which are to be deferredPatients which must be operated openThe preparation of the surgical team and the ICU and the operation theatre for the patient in the COVID-19 setting.

The principals on which we are working currently are as follows:

The Department is presently operating only about 2%–4% of its normal surgical case load.

The guiding principles are:

Possibility of COVID-positive patient being inadvertently operated in our operation theater (OT) (no detection/false hiding of COVID status/tested but coming false negative). In such a scenario, all the OT staff and ICU staff who come in contact with such a patient will be at jeopardy with the resulting health risk, quarantine difficulties, and departmental “temporary loss” of a large number of staff at one goThe availability of personal protective equipment (PPE), in terms of quantity, is currently not adequate. The rationale is to preserve the meagre stock to be used only when really and absolutely necessary.The problem of “isolating” a positive patient once operatedThe known high risk of mortality if patient is operated and is COVID positive.

The general guiding principle is thus SAFETY, of all

Since the lockdown was implemented, the outpatient departments were shut down, and all routine admissions were stopped as per the directives from the administration and health ministry.

Subsequent to that, the working wisdom has been to do only the real genuine emergency cases which are of the following nature –

Type A aortic dissectionCoronary artery disease (CAD) spectrum - Severe unstable angina/severe left main disease angioplasty complications, acute coronary syndrome with mechanical complicationsStuck prosthetic valves, not thrombolysis responsive, class 1VObstructed total anomalous pulmonary venous return, refractory spells, cardiac tamponade patientsSome other congenital heart problems, which if delayed, may deteriorate beyond a point to cause lifelong morbidity (Transposition of great arteries (TGA) with regressing ventricle).

 Protocol for Preoperative Management

These patients undergo mandatory clinical screening by the department of infectious diseases (IDs) before admission, whereby the patients with or without symptoms will be considered as COVID-19-positive unless proven otherwise by swab testTwo cubicles in step down ward [Figure 1] have been allocated to admit all new patients. A single nursing staff with proper PPE is allocated in each cubicle. Senior resident on duty has to wear appropriate PPE (N95 mask, face shield and gloves) before interacting with the isolated patients. Covid-19 swabs will be taken on Day 0 and Day 5 by the Emergency ID team. Blood sampling is done with adequate precautions. The blood bank is informed beforehand about sending of these samples. If positive, surgery not be done on these patients. If COVID-negative/cleared for surgery by ID team, they may be taken up for surgeryPrecautions outlined during perioperative period - Anesthesia induction to be done with minimum staff, with full PPE gearOperating team should be small and don full PPE. It has to be kept in mind that sternotomy and airway manipulation will generate aerosolThere have to be designated PPE donning and doffing areas for all personnel; the staff disposing of the discarded PPE should be fully conversant with the correct procedure and perform its task without errorsPostoperative convalescence - After the emergency surgery, all patients are shifted only to a different fully dedicated ICU [Figure 2] where senior residents and nursing staff on duty are to be provided with PPE and rotated in three shifts per day along with a separate donning and doffing area. A patient is shifted out of that ICU only after the day 5 COVID sample report is available. Patients with negative report will safely join those in regular ICU where already left over patients before lockdown are still recuperating.{Figure 1}{Figure 2}

Nursing in-charge of the ward ensures the availability of 10 PPE kits at all times.

Any patient who has been operated in CTVS department previously and now has any symptom suggestive of postoperative complication, can have telephonic consultation with our post MCh senior residents and get appropriate advice. If his/her coming to hospital is deemed necessary, they are advised to come ONLY to AIIMS Emergency and not directly to CTVS wards. In emergency ward, they are appropriately evaluated, triaged as per their COVID status and admitted in the appropriate areaAll healthcare personnel are instructed to be very vigilant about any symptoms as are seen with COVID infection and if they are symptomatic, the clinical algorithm to be followed fully by them (Reporting to emergency COVID screening area, getting appropriate advice and triage as per symptom severity and report positivity).

Till now, we are yet to operate on a preoperatively confirmed COVID-positive patient. In the patients that have been operated (about 12 since March 25, 2020), the COVID tests done postoperatively have been negative.

We anticipate that if the COVID case load increases suddenly and some proportion of these patients fall very sick, so as to be requiring ECMO support, the CTVS department has to be very well prepared for such an eventuality.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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