Two ENTs told Becker's ASC Review areas where they see the most growth potential in the field over the next three years.
Note: Responses were lightly edited for length and style.
Stacey Ishman, MD. Otolaryngologist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital: While the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly been a terrible experience for everyone, measures like social distancing and mask-wearing have significantly reduced the propagation of infections and reduced the incidence of ear infections, sinus infections along with many of the upper respiratory tract infections that precede them. On the other hand, during the pandemic we have seen increases in alcohol consumption, weight gain and reports of post-COVID-19 sleep difficulty — all of which point to the need for an increased focus on sleep medicine, the diagnosis of sleep disorders and increased awareness of the need to treat obstructive sleep apnea.
In light of this and the fact that 90 percent or greater of patients with obstructive sleep apnea are currently undiagnosed, I think sleep medicine and surgery for obstructive sleep apnea are the areas in otolaryngology with the biggest growth potential. It is my hope that a recent focus on the importance of sleep to combat stress and build resilience will lead people to assess their sleep quality and seek help for sleep disorders, including obstructive sleep apnea.
Nicole Aaronson, MD. Pediatric otolaryngologist at Alfred I. duPont Hospital (Wilmington, Del.): The subspecialties in otolaryngology are head and neck, sleep, otology/neuropathology, laryngology, rhinology, facial plastics and pediatrics. As a pediatric otolaryngologist, I would like to feel that pediatric otolaryngology has the most growth potential. However, while the specialty is learning to do things better through multispecialty clinics and new ways of delivering care, I do not see a large amount of growth overall.
Sleep as a subspecialty has had tremendous growth in recent years with the ability to make more targeted interventions and through drug-induced sleep endoscopy, new surgical treatments such as transoral robotic surgery and the hypoglossal nerve stimulator, and a proliferation of fellowship programs. Facial plastics and otology both have room for growth with the aging of the U.S. population and more patients seeking hearing restoration or procedures to minimize the cosmetic effects of aging.
Despite the growth in sleep, facial plastics and otology, I foresee the biggest growth in head and neck. HPV-related head and neck cancer has been growing at a near epidemic rate. As the younger population is vaccinated against HPV, disease rates will eventually decrease, but this will take some number of years to have an effect. In the interim, significant effort is being dedicated to identifying the optimal treatment interventions that will be effective while minimizing side effects. This cancer burden will result in growth not only in patient volume but also in surgical and medical innovation.