“The government is regularly updating its guidance on at-risk groups. In light of the latest information your hospital teams now consider that patients on HPN are a high risk group, as you/your child have significant organ impairment (GI) and a central venous access device in place. This advice is endorsed by the British Society of Gastroenterology. It advises you to follow the guidance on ‘shielding’ stringently, as outlined by the government, and you are strongly advised to stay at home and avoid any face-to-face contact for at least 12 weeks in the first instance. This can be challenging but the consensus is it is the best way to keep yourself/your child safe”.
This is a challenging time but amid the concern, there are uplifting stories of how people are looking out for each other and communities pulling together. The children’s rainbows of hope in windows and the national clap for carers to celebrate the work of the NHS and care workers on Thursday were much appreciated.
Information is useful—but too much information can be unhelpful. I have limited news updates to new information from consensus sources. We don’t generally benefit from watching the news over and over. Try to focus instead on the things you need to get done. Value the rest of the time to relax with your family or friends and reach out to those who may not have such good support networks as you may have.
The bulletins below have some reassuring observations for our patients.
I hope that these help guide your practice while working differently.
1 )Statement “Gastrointestinal endoscopy in children and COVID 19 pandemic” – ESPGHAN Endoscopy Special Interest Group
“..elective procedures – especially those such as upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy which is an ‘aerosol-generating procedure’ (AGP) – should be put on hold at present. Equally ileocolonoscopy, given that we know now that COVID-19 can be excreted in stools. Local and physician judgment should occur when determining which patients require urgent endoscopic diagnostic testing, but these should be kept to a minimum. Obviously, life-saving endoscopy such as GI bleeding and button battery ingestion are mandatory and should not be deferred. In the event of endoscopy being required a full personal exposure protection package should be worn by those in the immediate vicinity of the endoscopy including an FPP3 mask or equivalent”
Preliminary experience so far show that children under 12 years of age do not develop coronavirus pneumonia regardless of their immune status although they get infected and can spread the infection. Immune suppressed patients are not at risk for severe pulmonary disease compared with the general population.
2) Article “COVID-19 and paediatric inflammatory bowel diseases: global experience and provisional guidance (March 2020) from the Paediatric IBD Porto group of ESPGHAN”. see PDF attached https://bspghan.org.uk/jpgn-s-20-00391
Preliminary data for PIBD patients during COVID-19 outbreak are reassuring.
IBD per-se does not currently seem to be a risk factor for acquiring SARS-CoV-2, nor for a more severe infection. Standard IBD treatments including biologics should continue at present
All upper GI endoscopy should be considered high risk and enhanced PPE is recommended for all patients, regardless of any risk stratification.
BSG also considers lower GI endoscopies to be aerosol generating procedures (AGP) but the evidence for this is less strong and there is insufficient evidence to consider these as high risk at the present time
Risk stratification of patients by symptoms and temperature is of limited value, given the widespread prevalence and incubation period of up to 14 days
We recognise the limited availability of PPE, especially FFP3 masks, and so case selection is critical, focussing only on emergency and absolutely essential procedures. Minimising the volume of emergency activity will help preserve PPE supply.
Notes on FFP3 masks and enhanced PPE
Proper fitting and testing prior to use
Although ‘single use’ can use for several hours if not removed/contaminated
FFP3 uncomfortable after prolonged wearing, may affect ease of procedure
Cannot e.g. use phone, visit, toilet, eat or drink once enhanced PPE is on
We have received reports that some centres are continuing to run booked endoscopy lists, requiring patients:
To enter hospitals already treating significant numbers of COVID-19 patients.
To wait in areas that do not meet any of the Government’s social isolating directives.
For these reasons, the BSG has recommended that all but emergency procedures should stop immediately.
The main issues of contention remain whether Urgent 2 Week Wait (2WW) patients, (or Urgent Suspected Cancer (USC) patients in Scotland,) and patients already diagnosed as FIT positive under Bowel Cancer Screening Programs (BCSP), should be “paused” during the current crisis.
How any potential damage from delayed diagnosis can be mitigated.
2WW/USC, and BCSP referrals: Relative Diagnostic Yield. The Risks of Pausing
2WW/USC referrals – yield of cancer = 3%
Bowel cancer screening programmes (BCSP) (FIT+) – yield of cancer = 8-10%
Another, small percentage of patients will have advanced disease at the time of referral and the delay will not alter their prognosis, which unfortunately will already be very poor.
For this group, a delay of 3 months is unlikely to materially alter the risk of an adverse outcome.
Some of those who do not have established malignancy will have benign lesions such as polyps.
In the majority of these cases, progression to malignancy, if it occurs, may take years.
Conclusion: Very few patients are likely to come to harm from a pause of 3 months.
Risks of continuing 2WW/USC, BCSP and urgent referrals.
Removing polyps, particularly those over 1 cm, carries risks of haemorrhage and perforation often requiring admission to hospital.
During the COVID-19 crisis, ICU beds are unlikely to be available and even urgent surgical procedures will be restricted.
The risks of death from polypectomy usually quoted, are based on entry into a hospital operating under normal conditions, but not during a COVID-19 epidemic, where the risks of death will be significantly higher.
Patients who are diagnosed with cancer may not be offered surgery at the height of the epidemic. Their anxiety is likely to be equal to or even greater, than those with a positive FIT test whose colonoscopy is paused.
All patients attending for a non-emergency endoscopy now enter a high-risk environment.
The benefit of endoscopy may be offset by the risk of COVID-19 infection to themselves.
The majority will be older than 60 years with higher mortality from COVID-19 if they become infected.
They become a potential risk to their families and contacts.
Patients with asymptomatic COVID-19 infection pose a significant risk to staff. By definition, their infection will not be detected before having a procedure.
The aerosol or droplets take up to an hour disperse, so they remain a risk to staff and other patients after they leave the room.
There is, therefore, little evidence that a pause of 3 months will pose a significant risk to the great majority of 2WW/USC or BCSP patients, although it is accepted that a small number of patients may have a delay in their diagnosis.
On the other hand, a much larger number of patients and staff will be put at significant risk of COVID-19 if the 2WW/USC and BCSP is continued even at a scaled-down level.
Conclusions and Actions.
Stop all non-emergency endoscopy immediately.
Triage plan to identify patients who fall into the emergency category. The evidence base for this is laid out in previous BSG documents. (1) and follows experience from China(3), Italy(4) and the USA(5).
List all patients on to a separate Urgent Deferred Waiting List to prioritise their investigation when services resume.