Orthopedic companies optimistic about recovery after positive Q1


Orthopedic and spine surgery volume is recovering from the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and first-quarter medtech results reflect that. 

Three leading devicemakers — Smith+Nephew, Stryker and Johnson & Jonson — saw incremental year-over-year growth in orthopedic sales during the first quarter. 

"After being impacted in January by the omicron variant, procedural volumes recovered sequentially throughout the quarter as COVID-related delays and restrictions eased," Stryker Vice President of Investor Relations Preston Wells said in an earnings call. "While we're seeing volumes recover towards more normal levels, there continues to be some overhang from hospital staffing shortages, which is causing scheduling disruptions around the world. … In addition to procedural recovery, our double-digit growth in knees continues to benefit from the growing Mako install base."

In spine surgery, devicemakers including Alphatec, NuVasive and SeaSpine saw year-over-year quarterly revenue jumps as well. NuVasive in particular had a lot to celebrate, marking its 500th commercial case with its Pulse integrated spine surgery system. The system debuted in September 2021.

"We are evolving from a company focused on a single subsegment of spine to a company that is helping transform the future of spine care," NuVasive CEO Chris Barry said in an earnings call.

These outcomes support projected increases in demand for orthopedic surgery. A study published in the April 2019 edition of the Journal of Rheumatology projected hip and knee replacements will more than double by 2040. Shorter-term projections forecast knee replacements increasing 110 percent and hip replacements growing 75 percent by 2025.

At Stryker, orthopedics had seen accelerated growth compared to its spine business in recent years, CEO Kevin Lobo said during the earnings call.

"Even if you go back to pre-pandemic, the hip and knee market was growing on a dollar basis faster than the spine market," Mr. Lobo said. "We're delighted with our performance, … If you look at our knee business and hips just this quarter, we were leading the market in knees for a long time. Mako has been an enormous driver. Our cementless procedures are roughly one out of every two knees in the United States. So we have a real competitive advantage that you're seeing play out with our knee numbers, but [we're] excited that our hip number is now moving up as well."

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