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August 21, 2020 2 min read

COVID-19 seemingly came out of nowhere earlier this year. It was in no one's plans and it took many of us by surprise.  COVID-19 has shaken our economy, disrupted our way of life, and has caused second and third-order effects that we are still uncovering months after the initial outbreak. 

So what does that have to do with getting a knee or hip replacement?  A lot actually. Let me explain...

Elective surgeries were cancelled in nearly every state in the US earlier this year. This caused mass cancellations and re-booking of surgeries. But guess what? There are good chances that your surgeon books his/her schedule out months in advance. So now as they re-book surgeries that were cancelled and also book new surgeries, their schedules will fill up quickly. How quickly?  Our best estimate is that if you are not seen by September and secure a date, you will not have your surgery in 2020!

IMPLANTS

There are several manufactures that make total knee and hip components in the US (Stryker, JNJ, ZimmerBiomet, Smith&Nephew) to name a few. These components come from factories, which have experienced supply chain disruptions and staffing challenges. 

Popular sizes are going into backorder which the surgeon has no control over. These issues will not abate for a long while. Our US manufacturing system has been created around just-in-time inventory.  They are now trying to bolster their product efforts, but they are human just like me and you. It will take time to make our system robust again. 

TAKEAWAY

If you are thinking about having surgery, prepare now. Do not procrastinate. 

Surgeons are already starting to work on Saturdays to catch up. If you are at a large academic center, chances are you will get a Hip and Knee Fellow (a 6th-year advanced training for an orthopedic surgeon) vs the attending surgeons (usually a master level surgeon) for your surgery. The demand is so high while the supply of surgeons is still very much constrained. 

WORD TO THE WISE

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin