The reorganization of healthcare services during the COVID-19 pandemic has been associated with compromised management of conditions not related to the pandemic. Researchers in Portugal conducted a retrospective case study about how pandemic-related changes in healthcare may have affected diagnosis of idiopathic scoliosis.
They concluded that despite the significant decrease in primary care referrals for scoliosis in 2020, they did not observe an overcompensation referral increase in 2021. The research team did find an increase in the percentage of patients needing bracing, however, which they believe might reflect a delayed initial presentation for consultation.
The study included 367 patients who were observed for the first time in the hospital’s spinal deformity department at a university hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, from January 2019 through December 2021. Collected data included diagnosis, treatment, referral, and the number of consultations performed.
While referrals dropped significantly in 2020, the average number of consultations per patient was found to not vary significantly in 2020. Twenty-two percent of the consultations were performed online. Idiopathic scoliosis was the primary diagnosis in 50 percent of the patients observed for the first time during the three-year period. The number of patients with idiopathic scoliosis that required bracing in 2021 increased by 18 percent. However, late referrals, defined as the patient meeting surgical criteria at the time of initial presentation, did not increase.
The open-access study, “Idiopathic scoliosis trends one year after COVID-19: A retrospective study,” was published in Cureus.