It has been a little more than a year since the first Covid-19 lockdown protocols, including the halting of elective procedures. Looking back, it’s clear that Covid-19, and the delayed elective procedures, in particular, had a significant impact on the number of neurological procedures performed, though the impact differs significantly by market. For example, neuromodulation procedures plummeted, while embolisation procedures remained steadier throughout the year. Recovery in 2021 will likewise differ by market.

As Covid-19 started to spread internationally in March 2020, many countries quickly enacted lockdown protocols to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. These protocols often included delaying elective procedures, as healthcare resources were diverted towards treating Covid-19 patients. This delay and subsequent public health measures throughout 2020 significantly impacted the number of neurological procedures performed in the US in 2020, though the impact was more severe for elective procedures than urgent ones.

For example, estimates suggest that over 90% of neuromodulation procedures performed in the US are elective, as they are primarily to improve quality of life and are generally not life-threatening if not performed immediately. As a result, almost all neuromodulation procedures were delayed in the initial lockdowns. GlobalData estimates that roughly 25% of neuromodulation procedures were completed in April 2020 compared to January 2020 volume, with monthly procedure volume not recovering to pre-pandemic levels until September before dipping down to 70% of pre-pandemic levels in December.

In contrast, GlobalData estimates that roughly 31% of embolisation procedures performed in the US are elective, so procedure volume was not as affected by the elective procedure delays. GlobalData estimates that roughly 60% of embolisation procedures were completed in April 2020 compared to January 2020. However, volume recovered to pre-pandemic levels by July and remained above 90% pre-pandemic levels until November. Like neuromodulation procedures, embolisation procedure volume also dipped in December to roughly 75% pre-pandemic volume.

Recovery in 2021 will also differ depending on how urgent the procedure is. Elective procedures are expected to have more pent-up demand because of the delays, so should experience a larger increase in revenue. However, both elective and urgent procedure volumes dipped in December 2020 when the US experienced record-high daily Covid-19 cases, an indication that recovery is still highly dependent on available healthcare resources. The speed of vaccine adoption and the ability to control Covid-19 spread through public health measures in the meantime will be key factors in determining the rate of procedure recovery.