The Early Effects of Coronavirus Disease-2019 on Head and Neck Oncology and Microvascular Reconstruction Practice: A National Survey of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons Enrolled in the Head and Neck Special Interest Group

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Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery


Purpose: The coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has affected healthcare systems across the nation. The purpose of this study is to gauge the early effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on head and neck oncology and reconstructive surgery (HNORS) practice and evaluate their practice patterns especially ones that might be impacted by COVID-19 and compare them to the current literature. Methods: This study is a cross-sectional study that surveyed fellowship-trained oral and maxillofacial surgeons in HNORS. This cohort of surgeons was contacted via a generated email list of surgeons enrolled in the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons pathology special interest group. An electronic survey contained 16 questions to assess the COVID-19 effect on HNORS practice and capture their practice patterns from mid-March to mid-April 2020. Statistical analysis was performed to analyze counts, percentages, and response rates. Results: We had a 60% response rate (39 of 64); 72% of our responders worked at academic institutions, 18% marked themselves as hybrid academic/private practice, and only 10% were considered hospital-based surgeons. Only 8% of the survey respondents were requested to pause head and neck cancer surgery, whereas 24% were requested to pause free flap surgery during the pandemic. Fifty-five percent agreed that the head and neck and reconstructive surgery should be conducted during a pandemic. Finally, 45% thought that two weeks was a reasonable delay for head and neck cancer cases, whereas 29% thought they should not be delayed for any amount of time. Regarding practice patterns, microvascular reconstruction was the favored method (100%). Respondents generally admitted patients to an intensive care unit postoperatively (92%) and were kept on a ventilator (53%). Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic had a small impact on the surgical treatment of patients with head and neck oncology. Most HNORS surgeons are practicing in accordance with recently published literature.

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