Changes to the practice of pediatric otolaryngology as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic
International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology
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Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted medical practice globally. The objective of this study was to examine the changes to the practice of pediatric otolaryngology internationally due to the COVID-19 pandemic and examine potential contributors. Method: An online survey was designed to assess practice demographics, patterns of COVID-19 related restrictions in communities, and changes to practice and referrals. This was disseminated via an international Covid-19 WhatsApp™ group of pediatric otolaryngologists. Results: There were 45 respondents of 177 group members (25.4%) from 15 countries. The mean estimated time spent under strictest lockdown measures was 16.2 (±10.7) weeks (range: 1–45 weeks). Operating room time was reduced for 82.9%, with an average reported reduction of 41.5%. Almost all (>75%) of respondents reported reduced referrals for five common conditions: otitis media with effusion (average reported decrease – 56.1%); acute otitis media (average decrease 62.8%); acute mastoiditis (average decrease 66.6%); recurrent pharyngotonsillitis (average decrease 51.0%); and peritonsillar abscess (average decrease 52.1%). COVID-19 cases per million population significantly influenced the acuity of referrals received (p <.05). No conditions were reported as increased in frequency and the acuity of most conditions was reported as unchanged by the majority of respondents. Conclusion: The measures taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19 have resulted in many changes to pediatric otolaryngology practice and the referral patterns of common conditions. Some of these changes may have enduring sequelae.