“Necessity is the mother of invention.” In recent years, the demand for total hip, total knee, and unicompartmental knee arthroplasty has grown substantially. However, with limited resources and health-care budgets, there is a need to reduce hospital costs. To that end, a number of surgeons have begun to perform these procedures on an outpatient basis.
Indeed, as the demand for joint replacements grows, it will be imperative to improve patient safety and satisfaction while minimizing costs and optimizing the use of health-care resources. In order to accomplish this goal, surgical teams, nursing staff, and physiotherapists will need to work together to discharge patients from the hospital as soon as safely possible, including on the same day as the operation. The development of accelerated clinical pathways featuring a multidisciplinary approach and involving a range of health-care professionals will result in extensive preoperative patient education, early mobilization, and intensive physical therapy.
In the December 2016 issue of JBJS Reviews, Pollock et al. report on a systematic review that was performed to determine the safety and feasibility of outpatient total hip, total knee, and unicompartmental knee arthroplasty. The authors hypothesized that outpatient arthroplasty would be safe and feasible and that there would be similar complication rates, similar readmission and revision rates, similar clinical outcomes, and decreased costs in comparison with the findings associated with the inpatient procedure. The investigators demonstrated that, in selective patients, outpatient total hip, total knee, and unicompartmental knee arthroplasty can be performed safely and effectively.
A major caveat of this well-conducted study, however, is that, like any systematic review, its overall quality is based on the quality of the individual studies that make up the analysis. In this case, the studies included those that lacked sufficient internal validity, sample size, methodological consistency, and standardization of protocols and outcomes. Thus, going forward, there is a need for more rigorous and adequately powered randomized trials to definitively establish the safety, efficacy, and feasibility of outpatient hip and knee arthroplasty.
Thomas A. Einhorn, MD
Editor, JBJS Reviews