Impact of COVID-19 on endometriosis-related hospitalisations

Australia’s hospital system has played a significant role in managing and treating people infected with COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic also had a profound impact on hospital activity more broadly. The range of social, economic, business and travel restrictions, including restrictions on some hospital services, and associated measures in other healthcare services to support social distancing in Australia resulted in an overall decrease of 2.8% in hospital activity between 2018–19 and 2019–20 (AIHW 2022). Hospitalisations then increased by 6.3% from 2019–20 to 2020–21 as restrictions on hospital activity eased.

The COVID-19 pandemic and associated health service restrictions had a considerable impact on endometriosis-related hospitalisations.

As part of the Australian Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all non-urgent elective surgery was suspended for 1 month from 26 March to 27 April 2020. Many of the procedures used in the diagnosis and treatment of endometriosis, such as laparoscopy and hysteroscopy, are classified as elective surgery category 3 ‘non-urgent’.

The effect of this suspension is seen in the monthly data for endometriosis-related hospitalisations, with a considerable drop in hospitalisations in April 2020.

Patterns in the following months vary by jurisdiction, mirroring the differences in restrictions and public health measures seen in each state and territory. Nationally, endometriosis-related hospitalisations peaked in July 2020, and comparatively higher volumes were seen for the end of the year and the first half of 2021. This likely reflects programs implemented by jurisdictions to fast-track elective surgeries and provide increased funding for surgeries which were delayed because of the earlier restrictions on elective surgery.

In 2020, endometriosis-related hospitalisations followed a different pattern in Victoria from the rest of the country, with a second drop in August reflecting the state’s second wave.

Prior to COVID-19, endometriosis-related hospitalisations varied month-to-month with lowest numbers seen in December and January (Figure 7). This aligns with general trends of reduced elective surgery around the holiday period.

Figure 7: Monthly variation of endometriosis-related hospitalisations by state or territory of hospital, 2018–2021

Alt text: This interactive line chart shows the number of endometriosis-related hospitalisations by month and state and territory from 2018 to 2021. In Australia, hospitalisations of any diagnosis of endometriosis peaked in July 2020 at 4,104 and were lowest in April 2020 at 1,139. Similar patterns were seen for a principal diagnosis of endometriosis as with any diagnosis of endometriosis.

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AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) (2022) Admitted patients, AIHW website, accessed 23 October 2022.