What is it about?

The recent Italian outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 led to an unprecedented burden on our health care system. Despite head and neck–otolaryngology not being a front-line specialty in dealing with this disease, our department had to face several specific issues. Despite a massive reallocation of resources in the hospital, we managed to keep the service active, improving safety measures for our personnel, specifically during common otolaryngologic maneuvers known to produce aerosols. Furthermore, we strived to maintain our teaching role, giving residents an inclusive role in managing the response to the emergency state, and we progressively integrated our inactive specialists into other service rotations to relieve front-line colleagues’ burden. Specific issues and management decisions are discussed in detail in the article.

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Why is it important?

The identification of the first Italian patient with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on February 20, 2020, led to the discovery of a rapidly escalating infection cluster. Despite intensive care units (ICUs), pneumology units, and infectious disease units bearing the heaviest health care burden during this outbreak,1 other departments had to face an increased infectious risk while keeping up with the demands of patients. While head and neck–otolaryngology (H&N) departments are not standing in the first line of this struggle, our specificity in caring about the upper airways questioned us in terms of our clinical role and health care professionals’ safety and teaching duties, wondering where it was still feasible and reasonable to keep the department working. This viewpoint article focuses on the first 3 weeks of work in our H&N department, located in 1 of the 15 COVID-19 selected first-responder hub hospitals in Lombardy


The COVID-19 outbreak is an unprecedented emergency and it's changing not only the way we work, but also our perspective on healthcare. Even if we're not dealing with COVID-19 patients in our daily routine, reframing our role in the hospital is extremely important.

Dr alberto maria saibene
Universita degli Studi di Milano

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Role and Management of a Head and Neck Department during the COVID-19 Outbreak in Lombardy, Otolaryngology, April 2020, SAGE Publications,
DOI: 10.1177/0194599820917914.
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