We all know (in fact in this IT era and with nonstop information bombardment, the knowledge difference between doctors and the non-medical public has narrowed significantly!) that Coronavirus is a respiratory virus. It is spread from person to person by three means.
- Droplets: Whenever a person coughs or sneezes, he releases thousands of droplets containing viruses and these droplets can get into the nose or mouth of a person in front of him.
- Fomites: These droplets which are carried by sneeze and cough fall on the floor, tables, and chairs or on the surface of any object. The viruses can survive for many hours on these surfaces and whenever someone touches these objects and then touches his face he can get infected.
- Aerosols: There is new evidence that these viruses are transmitted into the air by the very act of speaking even without cough or sneeze. Therefore we are at risk even by being in front of a person while he is speaking.
In addition to the respiratory tract, COVID-19 is shed in saliva and faeces too.
Luckily so far, it has not been detected in urine. This means it cannot be spread by urinals or contaminated urine. It also means that a urologist is at a lesser risk of getting infected as compared to some other specialities. It does not mean that one can be carefree about disposing of urine. Who knows, we may come across new evidence that it can be carried through urine also.
Are urological surgeries safe during this pandemic?
Any surgery carries a risk of contamination and infection irrespective of the organ being operated upon. However, the risk across specialities is different. For instance, ENT, dental, facio-maxillary and facial surgeries carry the highest risk for the surgeon as well as the patient because of the proximity of the doctor’s and patient’s faces. Urological surgeries carry a lower risk because the surgeon is nowhere near the patient’s face.
However, it still carries a risk because of the following reasons:
- Anaesthesia and surgery are immunologically stressful events which means the body immunity level comes down during the procedure. Therefore the patient has a higher risk of developing COVID infection during or after the surgery.
- General anaesthesia: Whenever general anaesthesia is given there is a mask in the oral cavity or a tube in the throat through which anaesthesia gases are given. These carry a high risk of transmitting the virus.
- Hospital environment: When a patient is admitted in the hospital, he is at high risk for infection because there is a constant movement of the people some of whom could be infected.
Therefore it is safer to avoid all non-emergency surgeries during the pandemic.