Is European Arthroscopy Device Market “Underpenetrated” Or Just Different To U.S?

In short

Medtech market intelligence specialist Millennium Research Group (MRG), reckons the European arthroscopy device market is relatively underpenetrated compared to the market in the United States, which it says indicates that there is room for significant growth as these procedures gain greater acceptance.


In a press release touting its newest report into the arthroscopic discipline, “European Markets for Arthroscopy Devices 2012”, MRG claims that if the European population received arthroscopic procedures at the same rate as the US population, more than one million additional procedures would have been performed in 2011, 60% more than actually took place. The company, naturally enough, concludes that the European market is underpenetrated, although one would have to balance that argument by asking whether the American surgeon is possibly significantly more driven towards more advanced intervention by a healthcare system that supports it and a population that demands it. It’s quite some leap of faith to overlay American surgery rates onto a European population, especially when, over the years, it has always been the case that American “ops per head” have been significantly greater.

MRG acknowledges that factors such as lower obesity rates and different healthcare systems reduce Europe’s procedural potential compared to the US. Yet it returns to the claim that the magnitude of the difference in procedure volumes indicates a relative underpenetration of arthroscopy procedures in the European market.

Somewhat in support of our view that the difference is more likely to be a result of culture and system, MRG points out that “the difference is most extreme outside of the more standard knee procedures”. European physicians perform fewer than half as many shoulder procedures, and many times fewer small-joint and hip procedures, relative to patient population, as US physicians do. No great surprise there! US surgeons, especially in sports med, which comprise a chunk of these procedures, are usually ahead of the game and Europe predictably sees a combination of lag in uptake, coupled with general lower per capita use of newer surgical and technological approaches. Indeed its part of medlatest’s core raison d’etre to reduce the lag.

MRG proposes an example in the form of Rotator Cuff repair, a procedure where “arthroscopic procedures are already growing strongly in Europe, indicating the possibility of procedure growth in other interventions as well”.

There’s no doubt that minimally invasive arthroscopy procedures have some advantages. As MRG points out, recovery is typically faster and scars reduced to name two.  but history is not without its examples of how procedures that pioneers drive to minimally invasive approaches sometimes work better “open”, so its not a shoo in to say that the newer procedures will straightforwardly grow and grow.

MRG claims arthroscopic rotator cuff repair procedures will grow at an average annual rate of seven percent through 2016 and that arthroscopic procedures for other joints are also expected to show growth rate increases as they become more accepted. That’s no doubt true, but let’s be just a tad cautious before we expect US penetration rates from conservative Europeans in cash strapped economies.

Company comments

“While several factors limit arthroscopy procedure growth in Europe’s currently tough economic environment, the companies present in this space are making changes to drive long-term adoption,” said MRG Analyst Lexie Code. “For example, companies are taking steps to prove the advantages of new arthroscopy device features scientifically and in terms of cost versus benefit for their customers, especially when they are charging higher prices.”

We say

Lexie’s dead right. That’s what needs to happen. We’re just not all that sure that it is happening.

Source: Millennium Research Group