COVID-19 nasal swab test complications extremely rare

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Severe complications associated with nasal swab tests for COVID-19 are very rare, a new study found. Researchers in Finland looked at six months of hospital emergency department data in a region where more than 640,000 such tests had been performed.

They found that only eight patients needed emergency care for swab test-related problems. Four of the eight cases were due to broken swabs and four to uncontrollable nosebleeds.

All of the complications occurred immediately after swab tests, according to a report published  in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. The overall rate was 1.24 emergencies for every 100,000 performed tests.

While the study may have missed minor complications, it showed that COVID-19 nasopharyngeal swab testing “is safe and complications are extremely rare,” said coauthor Dr. Anni Koskinen of the University of Helsinki.

All of the complications seemed to involve an incorrect sampling technique or misdirection of the swab, her team reported. “Force should never be used, especially in patients with known prior operations of the nose or skull base,” they advised

Photo: EPA-EFE/Alejandro Garcia

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