Guidance for Return to Practice for Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery

June 2020 – Vol. 39, No. 5

Note: This article reflects the current COVID-19 situation as of May 22, 2020. The fast-changing pace of information related to this pandemic may not all be reflected in this column due to the Bulletin’s publication schedule.

James C. Denneny III, MD, AAO-HNS/F Executive Vice President and CEO

As the United States transitions back toward more widespread delivery of healthcare and otolaryngologists expand their practice to include non-emergent and time-sensitive patients, they are seeking consistent guidance and principles to reinstitute diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. The American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, with the collaboration of the otolaryngology specialty societies, has developed recommendations for a safe return to practice that are being presented in two parts. These are living documents updated on a regular basis as new information becomes available.

AAO-HNS Future of Otolaryngology Task Force Members:

Gavin Setzen, MD (Chair)
Samantha Anne, MD
Eugene G. Brown III, MD
James C. Denneny III, MD
Marc G. Dubin, MD
Stacey L. Ishman, MD, MPH
Ronald B. Kuppersmith, MD, MBA
Richard V. Smith, MD

These documents were prepared by the AAO-HNS Future of Otolaryngology Task Force with input from the Infectious Disease and Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Committees. The AAO-HNS approached the specialty societies within otolaryngology to set up a collaborative process to produce guidance for otolaryngologists that would be consistent, practical, and implementable at the appropriate time, based on local conditions and regulatory guidance. The American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy (AAOA), American Broncho-Esophagological Association (ABEA), American Laryngological Association (ALA), American Neurotology Society (ANS), American Otological Society (AOS), American Rhinologic Society (ARS), American Head and Neck Society (AHNS), American Society of Pediatric Otolaryngology (ASPO), and the International Surgical Sleep Society (ISSS) worked with the corresponding AAO-HNS Committee to submit recommendations from their respective areas of expertise. We are extremely grateful for the quick response and true collaborative spirit exhibited during this process. This is a perfect example of how a “We Are One” mentality can succeed and benefit the entire specialty. We will continue to provide you the resources you need for you, your practice, and your patients.

Guidance for Return to Practice for Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery

Part One [Released May 7]: Contains comprehensive general considerations that are applicable to all practice settings and specialty areas of otolaryngologists’ practice.

Part Two [Released May 15]: Contains specific recommendations encompassing prioritization and special circumstances related to surgical procedures for all specialty areas.

All “Guidance for Return to Practice in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery” materials and resources, including podcasts with video versions, can be found at

More COVID-19 resources

Please bookmark the AAO-HNS Coronavirus Disease 2019 Resources webpage for access to the latest information and tools, including:

  • AAO-HNS Position Statements
  • AAO-HNS COVID-19 Podcast Series: Episodes 1-16
  • OTO Journal COVID-19 Articles: Newly Accepted and Published Online First
  • Information for you, your practice, and your patients
  • Shared clinical research and news from around the specialty

Content is being added frequently to address the varying and timely needs of our global otolaryngology community. Learn more at