The current COVID-19 pandemic is causing many problems for health care professionals and governments. As a result, public health institutions have to reorganize their operations to meet the demands of the crisis. Each county has to make these changes within their health care system. Because of this, patients with other medical issues may develop complications in their treatment.
In Italy, this situation is even more complex since it is the country with the worst outbreak of COVID-19. The following report details how medical professionals from Milan, Italy balance the needs of IBD patients amidst the pandemic.
About the Report
The information in this report comes from the article Management of IBD during the COVID-19 outbreak: resetting clinical priorities. The article was published in the journal Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology on March 25, 2020.
Patients with IBD and COVID-19 Pandemic
The issue with patients that have IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) can be split into two categories:
- Issues with continuing treatment and surgical procedures.
- Issues concerning their immunosuppression treatment and whether or not it puts them at risk from infection.
Concerning the first issue, the authors recommend patience and understanding. Currently, all medical institutions are redirecting their resources to meet the needs of the pandemic. However, this is still not causing major problems for other patients in Milan.
None the less, there is a need for additional protective measures. The medical experts working with IBD patients recommend the use of surgical masks in the hospital as a preventive measure. Furthermore, they maintain that all IBD patients should isolate and take additional care to avoid infection.
As for regular checkups and visits to the clinic, the authors suggest the use of virtual clinics. Certain countries show success in their use. Virtual clinics are effective because they allow medical workers to communicate with their patients without the risk of infection. Not only that, but through such clinics, patients can continue their treatment without major interruptions.
Lastly, as patients with IBD use immunosuppression treatment, there is fear that they are at risk of infection. Some even speculate that they should stop with the treatment. However, the author caution against this, claiming that there is not enough research to support this theory. Not only that the medication will not stop its effect immediately after the patient stops consuming it. That means that their immune system will not function regularly until the medication leaves their body. The following statement from their article illustrates this issue best:
“At the moment, there are no formal evidence-based recommendations from clinical societies or governments for patients on immunosuppression, such as those with IBD.”
Because of this, the authors conclude that the treatment should continue as usual until research determines the opposite. After the reaction to the pandemic is stabilizes all other procedures will continue at a normal pace. Even though it seems that the situation could postpone everything the authors maintain this is only a short-term occurrence.