OBJECTIVE: During the Covid-19 pandemic, government restrictions limited health care to urgent needs. Neurophysiology centers had to suddenly reschedule their activities, with a lack of specific recommendations about electroencephalography (EEG) execution. During the pandemic phase 1, we launched an online survey to understand the flaws and strengths of the EEG management in Italy at the time of Covid-19 pandemic.
METHODS: A 45-item online survey (published from April 16 to 30, 2020), endorsed by the Italian Society of Clinical Neurophysiology (SINC), the Italian League Against epilepsy (LICE), and the Italian Association of Neurophysiology technologists (AITN), collected EEG management data (EEG's number and type, indications, personnel and patients safety, devices' sanification) during the Covid-19 pandemic.
RESULTS: We received responses from 206 centers. The number of EEGs performed was reduced by 76 ± 20%, and several types of specific EEG (video-EEG, ambulatory-EEG, LTM, polysomnography) were reduced at a minimum. Half of the centers performed inpatient EEGs only for urgencies. Repetitive seizures, encephalitis, and non-convulsive status epilepticus were the most common indications. Covid-19-positive patients received less EEG than negative ones (p < 0.0001). EEG requests came mainly not only from neurologists (n = 176) but also from general practitioners (n = 40), emergentists (n = 79), intensivists (n = 72), and other specialists (n = 53). Those centers which continued performing outpatient EEG examinations were instructed to perform the EEG after a Covid-19-related symptom screening for patients and using personal protective equipment (PPE) through all the procedure. Inpatient EEGs were performed using FFP2/FFP3 masks by neurophysiology technologists in only 50% of cases. Patients executed hyperventilation only for real clinical needs, but often (56%) with a mask.
CONCLUSIONS: Italian neurophysiology centers strongly adhered to government restrictions of lockdown. Some issues emerged, ranging from the evaluation of a proper indication for EEG, technical procedures of EEG recording, and protection of neurophysiology technicians.