Journal of Anaesthesiology Clinical Pharmacology

: 2020  |  Volume : 36  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 152--155

Patient isolation pods for the evacuation of COVID-19 infected patients – Is this the answer?

Shibu Sasidharan1, Vijay Singh1, Harpreet S Dhillon2, M Babitha3,  
1 Department of Anaesthesia and Critical Care, Level III IFH Hospital, MONUSCO, Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo
2 Department of Psychiatry, Level III IFH Hospital, MONUSCO, Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo
3 Ojas Hospital, Panchkula, Haryana, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Shibu Sasidharan
Department of Anaesthesia and Critical Care, Level III IFH Hospital, Goma
Democratic Republic of the Congo

How to cite this article:
Sasidharan S, Singh V, Dhillon HS, Babitha M. Patient isolation pods for the evacuation of COVID-19 infected patients – Is this the answer?.J Anaesthesiol Clin Pharmacol 2020;36:152-155

How to cite this URL:
Sasidharan S, Singh V, Dhillon HS, Babitha M. Patient isolation pods for the evacuation of COVID-19 infected patients – Is this the answer?. J Anaesthesiol Clin Pharmacol [serial online] 2020 [cited 2020 Oct 30 ];36:152-155
Available from:

Full Text

Dear Editor,

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has changed the way we function on a daily basis and practice medicine. As the safety of health care workers (HCWs) is paramount when handling COVID-19-infected patients, there has been considerable discussion about the use of patient isolation pods (pods) during the evacuation of these patients.[1] Therefore, we analyzed if pods are the ultimate solution to the problem. An isolation pod is a collapsible personnel isolation apparatus with a base used for avoiding unwanted contamination of harmful biological and chemical materials. The cover is connected to the base by a zipper. Several glove box ports are provided to permit rapid and expedient treatment of the patient.[2]

In June 2020, literature searches were performed on PubMed, Ovid, Embase, and the Cochrane Database to identify studies about the aeromedical transfer of patients with COVID-19 or other highly infectious diseases. Our search strategy is outlined in Appendix A [SUPPORTING:1].

There has been a consensus that there was little advantage to be gained in moving patients with COVID-19 in isolation pods and patients are best managed in a sitting position, with supplementary oxygen if required, or on stretchers for those who can be best managed lying down. Only the Norwegians (Norwegian Air Ambulance Service) had experience in using patient isolation pods, and they reported mixed results. Some patients who may have been managed best in a sitting position, were required to lay flat or semi-recumbent, and this had potentially compromised oxygen perfusion.[3] The United Kingdom Royal Air Force and Australian Defence Force experts emphasized the difficulty in managing ventilated patients in isolation pods and believed that the risks imposed outweighed any benefit.

The consensus for COVID-19 management was as follows.[3],[4],[5],[6],[7],[8],[9]


A risk assessment by a clinician expert in an aeromedical evacuation should be conducted before any decision to move the patient, especially those with evident symptoms of respiratory distressAn air transport isolator or negative pressure isolation chamber to move COVID-19 patients is not requiredSocial distancing (2 m) should be enforced strictly, where possible, during the moveHand hygiene, face hygiene, and respiratory etiquette should be practicedPersonnel not required for the evacuation should not travel on the aircraftPersonal protection equipment (PPE) guidance throughout the various stages of the evacuation is driven by the health care context (hospital, ground ambulance, aircraft, etc.)Ventilated patients should have a high-efficiency particulate air filter in the circuit.

Medical personnel's PPE comprises of:

Nitrile glovesPlastic apronEye/face protection (if the risk of splash present)Fluid-resistant surgical mask (FRSM) to be worn when within 2 m of the patientFiltering facepiece particles class 3 (FFP3) masks to be worn during aerosol-generating procedures (intubation or if continuous positive airway pressure/bilevel positive airway pressure is being given)FFP3 masks need to be fit-tested to ensure they are particulate tight.


Aircrew unable to stay outside a 2 m radius of the patient must wear PPE comprising of:

FRSMNitrile glovesPlastic apronEye/face protection.

Where it is safe to do so, aircrew/cockpit areas should be screened using suitable, easy-to-clean materialWhere possible, cockpit/aircrew areas should have ventilation isolated from the cabin.

 Movement Support

Senior specialist aeromedical evacuation clinician advice must be available 24/7Loading and unloading procedures must be developed for the aircrew, clinical staff, and patientAppropriate aircraft stairs and lifts must be planned for and provided to the evacuation team.

Aircraft decontamination

The aircraft decontamination process depends on the aircraft type.

Cargo-style aircraft:

No disinfectants should be fogged, atomized, or finely sprayed inside the aircraft because it could damage the avionics or the electrical systemsSoap and alcohol are effective (World Health Organization and European Centre for Disease Control)Aircraft foam washing fluid can be used, or 98% isopropanol (this is highly flammable).

Passenger-style aircraft (where there are a lot of soft furnishings):

Misted disinfectant approved through the European Union Aviation Safety Agency approved process, can be used for decontamination.

Therefore, the answer to the question in consideration is not an innovation like the isolation pod, but the knowledge, revision, and clear understanding of practices already in place, as stated above. This can help HCWs in a safe air transfer.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


1Bredmose PP, Diczbalis M, Butterfield E, Habig K, Pearce A, Osbakk SA, et al. Decision support tool and suggestions for the development of guidelines for the helicopter transport of patients with COVID-19. Scand J Trauma Resusc Emerg Med 2020;28:43.
2Nelson TP. Apparatus for isolating contagious respiratory hospital patients [Internet]. US5152814A, 1992. Available from: [Last cited 2020 Jun 16].
3Norum J, Elsbak TM. Air ambulance services in the Arctic 1999-2009: A Norwegian study. Int J Emerg Med 2011;4:1.
4Johnsen AS, Fattah S, Sollid SJ, Rehn M. Impact of helicopter emergency medical services in major incidents: Systematic literature review. BMJ Open 2013;3:e003335.
5Rehn M, Hyldmo PK, Magnusson V, Kurola J, Kongstad P, Rogn\aas L, et al. Scandinavian SSAI clinical practice guideline on pre-hospital airway management. Acta Anaesthesiol Scand 2016;60:852-64.
6Sollid SJ, Rehn M. The role of the anaesthesiologist in air ambulance medicine. Curr Opin Anesthesiol 2017;30:513-7.
7Chalwin RP, Flabouris A. Utility and assessment of non-technical skills for rapid response systems and medical emergency teams. Intern Med J 2013;43:962-9.
8Leeuwenburg T, Hall J. Tyranny of distance and rural prehospital care: Is there potential for a national rural responder network? Emerg Med Australas 2015;27:481-4.
9Mazur S, Ellis D. Right people, right time: Prehospital and retrieval medicine. Emerg Med Australas 2014;26:423-5.