From trends in physician compensation to emerging technologies and what's going on in the medical device industry, here are 11 observations on the spine industry in 2021:
1. Orthopedic surgeons are no longer the highest-paid specialists in the U.S., with plastic surgeons on average taking home a larger salary each year, according to Medscape's "Physician Compensation Report 2021."
2. Spine surgeons are concerned that nonurgent surgeries may be affected this winter as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations spike amid the emergence of the delta and omicron variants.
3. Medicare walked back its planned elimination of the inpatient only list. Most of the procedures removed from the inpatient-only list in 2021 will return to the list in January, including 14 spine codes.
4. Surgeons face a 9.75 percent reimbursement decrease in 2022. Physicians are bracing for further cuts to Medicare reimbursement next year, but a bill passed by the Senate on Dec. 9 aims to mitigate those cuts.
5. Spine practices continue to attract investment from private equity firms. Atlanta-based Resurgens Orthopaedics became the latest group to affiliate with a private equity firm in December.
6. Physician-owned "supergroups" are becoming more prominent in orthopedics. In 2021, four new groups with 100 physicians or more were formed through mergers.
7. In the medtech industry, Zimmer Biomet plans to spin off its spine and dental units. The move will create two independent companies: Zimmer Biomet, focused on orthopedics, and ZimVie, focused on spine and dental.
8. A spine allograft was recalled after several patients became sick and one died. Aziyo Biologics recalled its FiberCel cellular bone matrix after several patients who received it tested positive for tuberculosis.
9. Robots continue to make waves in spine surgery. Robots are expected to play a key role in the future of the specialty, helping surgeons perform safer, more precise and more reproducible surgeries.
10. The FDA designated several spine technologies as "breakthrough devices," including Carlsmed's patient-specific interbody for adult deformity and Cerapedic's bone graft for the treatment of degenerative disc disease.
11. Awake spine surgery made headlines as a way to deliver care without the use of general anesthesia. In October, Vijay Yanamadala, MD, became the first surgeon to perform an awake spinal fusion in New England.