The COVID-19 outbreak abruptly restricted gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy services during the first wave of the pandemic. We aimed to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the practice of GI endoscopy in Asian countries.
This was an International Questionnaire-based Internet Survey conducted at multiple facilities by the International Gastrointestinal Consensus Symposium. A total of 166 respondents in Japan, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, and Singapore participated in this study.
The volume of endoscopic screening or follow-up endoscopies and therapeutic endoscopies were markedly reduced during the first wave of the pandemic, which was mainly attributed to the decreased number of outpatients, cancellations by patients, and adherence to the guidelines of academic societies. The most common indications for GI endoscopy during the first wave were GI bleeding, cholangitis or obstructive jaundice, and a highly suspicious case of neoplasia. The most common GI symptoms of COVID-19 patients during the infected period included diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. The pandemic exacerbated some GI diseases, such as functional dyspepsia and irritable bowel syndrome. There were cases with delayed diagnosis of cancers due to postponed endoscopic procedures, and the prescription of proton pump inhibitors/potassium-competitive acid blockers, steroids, immunosuppressive agents, and biologics was delayed or canceled. The personal protective equipment used during endoscopic procedures for high-risk patients were disposable gloves, disposable gowns, N95 or equivalent masks, and face shields. However, the devices on the patient side during endoscopic procedures included modified surgical masks, mouthpieces with filters, and disposable vinyl boxes or aerosol boxes covering the head. Furthermore, the time for education, basic research, clinical research, and daily clinical practice decreased during the first wave.
This study demonstrated that the COVID-19 pandemic profoundly affected the method of performing GI endoscopy and medical treatment for patients with GI diseases in Asian countries.

© 2021 S. Karger AG, Basel.