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Nasal Swab Test for COVID-19 Risky for Sinus Surgery Patients

WEDNESDAY, March 17, 2021 -- There is an absence of online information regarding the risks of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) nasopharyngeal swab (NPS) testing for patients with a history of sinus and/or pituitary surgery, according to a research letter published online March 4 in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

Noting that blind NPS testing poses a risk to patients with sinus pathology, Taylor Fish, from the University of Texas Health San Antonio, and colleagues examined online preoperative and postoperative patient information regarding the potential risks of SARS-CoV-2 NPS testing for individuals with a history of sinus or skull-base surgery. The top 100 sites for searches on "sinus surgery instructions" and "pituitary surgery instructions" were identified. The authors also noted the presence of any of the following terms on the webpages: COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, coronavirus, or nasopharyngeal swab.

Searches for sinus surgery instructions and pituitary surgery instructions returned 6,600,000 and 1,200,000 results, respectively. The researchers identified 79 websites that displayed the date of the last update, and nine of these had been updated since the declaration of COVID-19 as an international health emergency on Jan. 30, 2020. None of the top 200 websites (53 academic, 93 private practice, and 54 other sites) contained warnings for high-risk patients or information pertaining to SARS-CoV-2 NPS testing.

"Otolaryngologists should inform at-risk patients about blind NPS testing and alternative diagnostic methods," the authors write. "Health care professionals ordering or administering testing must prescreen patients with a history of sinus and skull-base surgery prior to NPS testing and use alternative testing."

One author disclosed financial ties to the medical device industry.

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