COVID-19 coronavirus: recommended personal protective equipment for the orthopaedic and trauma surgeon

Michael T. Hirschmann*, Alister Hart, Johann Henckel, Patrick Sadoghi, Romain Seil, Caroline Mouton

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    136 Citations (Scopus)


    Purpose: With the COVID-19 crisis, recommendations for personal protective equipment (PPE) are necessary for protection in orthopaedics and traumatology. The primary purpose of this study is to review and present current evidence and recommendations for personal protective equipment and safety recommendations for orthopaedic surgeons and trauma surgeons. Methods: A systematic review of the available literature was performed using the keyword terms “COVID-19”, “Coronavirus”, “surgeon”, “health-care workers”, “protection”, “masks”, “gloves”, “gowns”, “helmets”, and “aerosol” in several combinations. The following databases were assessed: Pubmed, Cochrane Reviews, Google Scholar. Due to the paucity of available data, it was decided to present it in a narrative manner. In addition, participating doctors were asked to provide their guidelines for PPE in their countries (Austria, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, UK) for consideration in the presented practice recommendations. Results: World Health Organization guidance for respiratory aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs) such as intubation in a COVID19 environment was clear and included the use of an FFP3 (filtering face piece level 3) mask and face protection. However, the recommendation for surgical AGPs, such as the use of high-speed power tools in the operating theatre, was not clear until the UK Public Health England (PHE) guidance of 27 March 2020. This guidance included FFP3 masks and face protection, which UK surgeons quickly adopted. The recommended PPE for orthopaedic surgeons, working in a COVID19 environment, should consist of level 4 surgical gowns, face shields or goggles, double gloves, FFP2-3 or N95-99 respirator masks. An alternative to the mask, face shield and goggles is a powered air-purifying respirator, particularly if the surgeons fail the mask fit test or are required to undertake a long procedure. However, there is a high cost and limited availabilty of these devices at present. Currently available surgical helmets and toga systems may not be the solution due to a permeable top for air intake. During the current COVID-19 crisis, it appeared that telemedicine can be considered as an electronic personal protective equipment by reducing the number of physical contacts and risk contamination. Conclusion: Orthopaedic and trauma surgery using power tools, pulsatile lavage and electrocautery are surgical aerosol-generating procedures and all body fluids contain virus particles. Raising awareness of these issues will help avoid occupational transmission of COVID-19 to the surgical team by aerosolization of blood or other body fluids and hence adequate PPE should be available and used during orthopaedic surgery. In addition, efforts have to be made to improve the current evidence in this regard. Level of evidence: IV.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1690-1698
    Number of pages9
    JournalKnee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


    • Aerosols
    • COVID-19
    • Corona
    • Helmet
    • Masks
    • Personal protective equipment
    • Protection
    • Respirator masks
    • Suits
    • Surgeon


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