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COVID-19 Resource Center

March 10, 2020
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AAOS cancels annual meeting amid COVID-19 concerns

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The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons announced it has canceled its annual meeting scheduled for March 24-28, 2020, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando due to concerns surrounding the novel coronavirus.

“Our team, like many of you, has been eagerly anticipating and preparing for this year’s meeting. The largest orthopedic gathering in the nation, the AAOS Annual Meeting was set to host 479 presentations, 250,000 net square feet of exhibit space and 27,000 attendees from around the world,” the AAOS released in a statement. “But, the ongoing spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) has been a serious concern for us all, and its implications have substantially affected the logistics of the meeting.”

Health, safety concerns

The AAOS also noted the restrictions on domestic travel issued by the growing list of academic centers and health systems has had an impact on the educational sessions scheduled at the annual meeting, as well.

Bryan Kelly

With the health, safety and well-being of the AAOS global community as their highest priority, the AAOS noted it took into consideration the needs of its members in their local communities to help their institutions and patients prepare for and react to the growing COVID-19 spread, as well as the potential risks associated with large gatherings and increasing travel advisories and restrictions into its decision to cancel.

The AAOS also noted the restrictions on domestic travel issued by the growing list of academic centers and health systems has had an impact on the educational sessions scheduled at the annual meeting, as well.

“The safety of our faculty, staff and patients is our first priority at [Hospital for Special Surgery] HSS,” Bryan Kelly, MD, surgeon-in-chief at HSS, told Orthopedics Today. “We have instituted a number of measures to restrict attendance at large gatherings and work-related travel that is not essential to our patient care operations, and we commend AAOS for taking precautionary steps. We look forward to sharing our research with our orthopedic colleagues at an appropriate time in the future.”

In response to this decision, the Arthroscopy Association of North America released a statement in support of the AAOS, stating that this was the safest decision for both physicians and their patients.

“While we realize the importance of the AAOS Annual Meeting and Specialty Day, we proudly stand by and support the Academy’s difficult decision as we continue to work with them through this process,” Laura Downes, CAE, chief executive officer of AANA, stated in the release.

Despite the cancellation, the AAOS provided required business information usually held at the annual meeting virtually between March 25-27, 2020, including nominations of the committee slate for the 2020 Board of Directors, open hearings regarding AAOS resolutions and amendments to the AAOS bylaws, the AAOS business meeting and nominations to the AAOS Nominating Committee.

Future considerations

James C. Iatridis
Scott D. Boden

In addition to the cancellation of the AAOS Annual Meeting, as of March 20, 2020, AANA has also canceled its annual meeting planned for May 7-9, 2020, in Grapevine, Texas.

However, not all organizations have had to cancel their meetings. The American Association of Orthopaedic Executives announced it has moved its annual conference to a virtual platform. The European Society of Sports Traumatology, Knee Surgery & Arthroscopy originally announced its congress would be postponed until Sept. 1-4, 2020 in Milan and then again postponed the meeting to May 11-14, 2021. The Alliance of International Organizations of Orthopaedics & Traumatology Orthopaedic Trauma Course has also been postponed until a later date. The European Board of Orthopaedics and Traumatology Interim Exam has also been postponed with currently no alternative date listed, while the final exam is being maintained for June 17, 2020. The European Federation of National Association of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, however, continues planning to hold their annual congress from June 10-12, 2020, in Vienna.

With the cancellation of upcoming medical meetings, conferences and courses, there has been consideration of turning to a virtual platform. James C. Iatridis, PhD, past president of the Orthopaedic Research Society, noted virtual elements of annual meetings may prove to be a resilient solution to “future global health crises and climate issues,” while potentially allowing meeting content to be available for larger audiences. However, he added that live meetings are still “critically important” for “increased engagement and uncountable number of networking, communication and mentoring opportunities that do not have effective virtual replacements.”

“The canceled 2020 AAOS Annual Meeting has the large impact of missed educational and communication opportunities that are crucial to innovate and improve clinical care and quality in the long term,” Iatridis told Orthopedics Today. “However, in the short term, this cancellation allows providers to focus on providing direct care to their local communities that need their services.”

Physician reactions

The news of the decision by the AAOS to cancel its annual meeting has been met with support from its members. Anthony A. Romeo, MD, chief medical editor of Orthopedics Today and chief of orthopedics at Rothman Orthopaedics – New York, applauded the AAOS for canceling the annual meeting.

Anthony A. Romeo

“I applaud the AAOS for making this courageous decision. The coronavirus is a new event within our lifetime for which we have no previous experience on the appropriate way to handle. However, it is clear people – both domestically and internationally – are at risk for infection, and our older participants are even at risk for a fatal event,” Romeo told Orthopedics Today. “AAOS did the right thing to think about the safety of the people attending the event and their patients. We will come back next year, just as strong as ever, knowing that we did the right thing in 2020.”

Similarly, Scott D. Boden, MD, section editor of spine for Orthopedics Today, said he believes AAOS made the right decision, stating it is “better [to be] safe than sorry,” and is hopeful that a virtual or online version of the AAOS educational content will be available.

“We do not want to have any increased risk of front-line health care providers getting exposed and coming back and exposing other providers or having a self-quarantine and come off the front lines of care,” Boden told Orthopedics Today.

AAOS noted it will provide more details and information in the coming days through its website and social media channels.

“We will share details soon on how we will work to bring the substance and spirit of our 2020 annual meeting to all who were planning to participate,” according to the release. – by Kristine Houck, MA, ELS, Susan M. Rapp and Casey Tingle

Disclosures: Boden, Iatridis, Kelly and Romeo report no relevant financial disclosures.