Complications of Nasopharyngeal Swabs and Safe Procedures for COVID-19 Testing Based on Anatomical Knowledge

Dai Hyun Kim, Dasom Kim, Jee Won Moon, Sungwon Chae, Im Joo Rhyu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Nasopharyngeal swabs have been widely to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Nasopharyngeal COVID-19 testing is a generally safe and well-tolerated procedure, but numerous complications have been reported in the media. Therefore, the present study aimed to review and document adverse events and suggest procedural references to minimize preventable but often underestimated risks. A total of 27 articles were selected for the review of 842 related documents in PubMed, Embase, and KoreaMed. The complications related to nasopharyngeal COVID-19 testing were reported to be rarely happened, ranging from 0.0012 to 0.026%. Frequently documented adverse events were retained swabs, epistaxis, and cerebrospinal fluid leakage, often associated with high-risk factors, including severe septal deviations, pre-existing skull base defects, and previous sinus or transsphenoidal pituitary surgery. Appropriate techniques based on sufficient anatomical knowledge are mandatory for clinicians to perform nasopharyngeal COVID-19 testing. The nasal floor can be predicted by the line between the nostril and external ear canal. For safe testing, the angle of swab insertion in the nasal passage should remain within 30° of the nasal floor. The swab was gently inserted along the nasal septum just above the nasal floor to the nasopharynx and remained on the nasopharynx for several seconds before removal. Forceful insertion should be attempted, and alternative examinations should be considered, especially in vulnerable patients. In conclusion, patients and clinicians should be aware of rare but possible complications and associated high-risk factors. The suggested procedural pearls enable more comfortable and safe nasopharyngeal COVID-19 testing for both clinicians and patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere88
JournalJournal of Korean medical science
Volume37
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Mar 21

Keywords

  • Complications
  • Covid-19 testing
  • Nasopharyngeal swab
  • Procedural reference
  • Risk factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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