The Persistent Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Total Joint Arthroplasty Changes in Practice Patterns in the United States From 2020 to 2021Amit S. Piple, MD, Jennifer C. Wang, BS, Gabriel J. Bouz, MD, Brian C. Chung, MD, Cory K. Mayfield, MD, Mary K. Richardson, BS, Daniel A. Oakes, MD, Jay R. Lieberman, MD, Alexander B. Christ, MD, and Nathanael D. Heckmann, MD∗
The SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic has dramatically disrupted orthopaedic surgery practice patterns. This study aimed to examine differences between patients who underwent total joint arthroplasty (TJA) before the pandemic compared to 2020 and 2021.
A retrospective cohort study was performed on all patients who underwent elective inpatient TJA from January 2017 to December 2021 using a national large database. Descriptive statistics were utilized to trend length of stay (LOS) and patient age. Patient demographics, discharge destinations, and rates of medical comorbidities were assessed for patients undergoing TJA in 2020 and 2021 compared to patients from prepandemic years (2017 to 2019). Overall, 1,173,366 TJAs were identified (2017 to 2019: 810,268 TJAs, average 270,089 cases/year; 2020: 175,185 TJAs; 2021: 187,627 TJAs). There was a 35.3% and 30.5% decrease in 2020 and 2021, respectively, when compared to the prepandemic annual average.
Average LOS decreased from 1.6 days in January 2020 to 0.9 days by December 2021. Same-day discharges increased from 6.2% of cases in 2019 to 30.5% in 2021. Discharge to skilled nursing facilities (SNF) reduced from 11.3% in 2017 to 2019 to 4.3% and 4.5% in 2020 and 2021, respectively. Patients ≥70 years old undergoing elective TJA decreased from 39.6% in 2017 to 2019 to 29.2% in April 2020.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, same-day discharges following primary elective TJA increased markedly, the average LOS decreased, discharges to SNFs decreased, and a preferential shift toward younger patients was observed.
Level of Evidence
Therapeutic Level III.