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Good clinical practice and the use of hypofractionation radiation schedules as weapons to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infections in radiation oncology unit: A mono-institutional experience

1 Radiation Therapy Unit, Azienda Unità Sanitaria Locale - IRCCS di Reggio Emilia, Italy
2 Department of Radiation Oncology Shohadaye Haft-e-Tir Hospital, Iran University of Medical Science, Teheran, Iran
3 Medical Physics Unit, Department of Oncology and Advanced technology, AUSL-IRCCS di Reggio Emilia, Italy

Correspondence Address:
Salvatore Cozzi,
Radiation Therapy Unit, Azienda Unità Sanitaria Locale - IRCCS di Reggio Emilia, Viale Risorgimento 80, 42123 Reggio Emilia
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jcrt.jcrt_529_21

BACKGROUND: After coronavirus disease outbreak emerged in 2019, radiotherapy departments had to adapt quickly their health system and establish new organizations and priorities. The purpose of this work is to report our experience in dealing with COVID-19 emergency, how we have reorganized our clinical activity, changed our priorities, and stressed the use of hypofractionation in the treatment of oncological diseases. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The patients' circuit of first medical examinations and follow-up was reorganized; a more extensive use of hypofractionated schedules was applied; a daily triage of the patients and staff, use of personal protective equipment, hand washing, environment sanitization, social distancing and limitations for the patients' caregivers in the department, unless absolutely essential, were performed; patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 were treated at the end of the day. In addition, the total number of radiotherapy treatment courses, patients and sessions, in the period from February 15 to April 30, 2020, comparing the same time period in 2018 were retrospectively investigated. In particular, changes in hypofractionated schedules adopted for the treatment of breast and prostate cancer and palliative bone metastasis were analyzed. RESULTS: Between February 15, and April 30, 2020, an increased number of treatments was carried out: Patients treated were overall 299 compared to 284 of the same period of 2018. Stressing the use of hypofractionation, 2036 RT sessions were performed, with a mean number of fractions per course of 6.8, compared to 3566 and 12.6, respectively, in 2018. For breast cancer, the schedule in 18 fractions has been abandoned and treatment course of 13 fractions has been introduced; a 27% reduction in the use of 40.5 Gy in 15 fractions, (67 treatments in 2018–49 in 2020) was reported. An increase of 13% of stereotactic body radiation therapy for prostate cancer was showed. The use of the 20 Gy in 4 or 5 sessions for the treatment of symptomatic bone metastasis decreased of 17.5% in favor of 8 Gy-single fraction. Three patients results COVID-19 positive swab: 1 during, 2 after treatment. Only one staff member developed an asymptomatic infection. CONCLUSIONS: The careful application of triage, anti-contagion and protective measures, a more extensive use of hypofractionation allowed us to maintain an effective and continuous RT service with no delayed/deferred treatment as evidenced by the very low number of patients developing COVID-19 infection during or in the short period after radiotherapy. Our experience has shown how the reorganization of the ward priority, the identification of risk factors with the relative containment measures can guarantee the care of oncological patients, who are potentially at greater risk of contracting the infection.

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    -  Cozzi S
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