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Impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic on equity of access to hip and knee replacements: a population-level study


Purpose — The COVID-19 pandemic had innumerable impacts on healthcare delivery. In Canada, this included limitations on inpatient capacity, which resulted in an increased focus on outpatient surgery for non-emergent cases such as joint replacements. The objective of this study was to assess whether the pandemic and the shift towards outpatient surgery had an impact on access to joint replacement for marginalized patients.

Methods — Data from Ontario’s administrative healthcare databases were obtained for all patients undergoing an elective hip or knee replacement between January 1, 2018 and August 31, 2021. All surgeries performed before March 15, 2020 were classified as “pre-COVID,” while all procedures performed after that date were classified as “post-COVID.” The Ontario Marginalization Index domains were used to analyze proportion of marginalized patients undergoing surgery pre- and post-COVID.

Results — A total of 102,743 patients were included—42,812 hip replacements and 59,931 knee replacements. There was a significant shift towards outpatient surgery during the post-COVID period (1.1% of all cases pre-COVID to 13.2% post-COVID, p < 0.001). In the post-COVID cohort, there were significantly fewer patients from some marginalized groups, as well as fewer patients with certain co-morbidities, such as congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Conclusion — The most important finding of this population-level database study is that, compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a change in the profile of patients undergoing hip and knee replacements in Ontario, specifically across a range of indicators. Fewer marginalized patients are undergoing joint replacement surgery since the COVID-19 pandemic. Further monitoring of access to joint replacement surgery is required in order to ensure that surgery is provided to those who are most in need.



Ekhtiari  S, Pincus D, Croxford R, Gatley JM, Khoshbin A, Atrey A, Paterson M, Ravi B. Int Orthop. 2023; Nov 28 [Epub ahead of print].

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