Objective: To describe the restructuring of services by British radiologists in response to evolving national guidelines and highlight the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the treatment of musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions.
Methods: An online anonymised survey was distributed via the British Society of Skeletal Radiology (BSSR) members forum in November 2020. Responses were collated using a standardised Google form including 21 questions.
Results: 135 members of the BSSR completed the survey. 85% of respondents stopped performing corticosteroid injections (CSI) during the initial lockdown of the pandemic. This was primarily influenced by national guidelines. The majority of respondents initially abstained from offered CSI procedures, then by November 2020, 69% of respondents were providing CSI for high and low risk patients, 23% were only providing CSI for low-risk patients with 8% still not performing any CSI. 40% of respondents reported routinely obtaining specific written consent regarding the risk of COVID-19. Approximately, 11,000 CSI were performed by respondents between March and November 2020 with no reported significant COVID-19-related complications. Over 80% of BSSR members reported that the number of CSI procedures that they performed dropped by more than 80% compared to usual. 73% of respondents reported an increased backlog of patients awaiting treatment. The average waiting time for routine outpatient CSI treatment was > 12 weeks in 53% of responses, compared to 34% the previous year.
Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the clinical practices of MSK radiologists in the UK. Our survey highlights the rapid response of BSSR members as national guidelines evolved. Currently, the majority of respondents are performing CSI for musculoskeletal conditions when clinically indicated, with enhanced consent. However, the pandemic has resulted in increased waiting times - delaying the treatment of patients who may be suffering with significant pain and disability. Further research is warranted to provide guidance around both service recovery and provision of CSI around COVID-19 vaccination schedules.
Advances in knowledge: BSSR members responded rapidly to changing guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of respondents are currently performing CSI when clinically indicated. The pandemic has resulted in a significant increase in waiting times which will have a significant impact on UK musculoskeletal services.