At any given time, a patient’s blood-glucose level is easy to measure. Beyond the standard pre/postoperative lab values, there are finger sticks, transdermal meters, and other modalities that make taking a patient’s glucose “snapshot” pretty straightforward. So why don’t we surgeons keep track of it more frequently before and after joint replacement, when, according to the prognostic study by Shohat et al. in the July 5, 2018 issue of JBJS, fluctuating glucose levels can have a critical impact on outcomes?
By retrospectively studying more than 5,000 patients who had undergone either total hip or total knee arthroplasty, the authors found that increased variability of glucose levels (measured by a coefficient of variation) was associated with increased risks of 90-day mortality, surgical-site infection, and periprosthetic joint infection. Specifically, the authors demonstrated that for every 10-percentage-point increase in the glycemic coefficient of variation, the risk of 90-day mortality increased by 26%, and the risk of periprosthetic or surgical-site infection increased by 20%. These are remarkable increases in extremely important outcome measures, and the associations held regardless of the patient’s mean glucose values prior to or after the surgery. In fact, some of the highest levels of glucose variability were found in patients who had well-controlled glucose levels preoperatively. Furthermore, as Charles Cornell, MD points out in a commentary on this study, “Glucose variability appears to affect surgical prognosis more than chronic hyperglycemia.”
These findings were surprising and a bit concerning. I don’t tend to order routine blood-glucose measurements postoperatively on patients who appear to be euglycemic based on preoperative testing. Yet, according to these data, maybe I should. Findings of high glucose variability postoperatively might now prompt me to consult with endocrine or perioperative medicine specialists or at least consider informing patients with fluctuating glucose levels that they may be at increased risk of serious postoperative complications.
Measuring a patient’s blood sugar is neither challenging nor prohibitively expensive. So why don’t we monitor it more closely? Probably because, until now, we have not had a compelling reason to do so with “low-risk” patients. What this study suggests is that our definition of a “low-risk” patient from a glycemic-control standpoint may be misinformed. And while further research needs to be performed to corroborate these findings, that is a pretty scary thought to digest.
Chad A. Krueger, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media
In the last decade, the widespread use of regional anesthesia in total knee arthroplasty has led to improvements in pain control, more rapid functional recovery, and reductions in the length of the hospital stay. #JBJS #JBJSInfoGraphics #visualabsrtact
Local disruption of the cord that causes contracture of the finger in Dupuytren disease can be achieved either through mechanical division by percutaneous needle fasciotomy (PNF) or through enzymatic digestion by injectable collagenase Clostridium histolyticum (CCH). #JBJS #VisualAbstract
OrthoBuzz occasionally receives posts from guest bloggers. This guest post comes from Christopher Dy, MD, MPH, in response to a recent study in PNAS.
I am a young surgeon, but I have been submitting papers and grants for peer review for 11 years, since I was a third-year med student. I have tasted the bitterness of rejection more times than I would like to admit, several times at the hands of JBJS. But I will say, without a doubt, that the peer-review process has made my work better.
Acknowledging that our work is far from perfect at the point of submission, most of us have turned the question around: How good and reliable is the peer-review process? Several related questions arise quickly: Who are the “peers” doing the reviewing? We put weeks and months into writing a paper or submitting a grant, which then vanishes into the ether of a review process. How do we know that we are getting a “fair shake” from reviewers, who, being human, carry their own biases and have their own limitations and knowledge gaps—in addition to their expertise? And do the reviewers even agree with each other?
Many authors can answer “no” to that last question, as they have likely encountered harmony from Reviewers 1 & 3 but scathing dissent from Reviewer 2. Agreement among reviews was the question examined by Pier et al. in their recent PNAS study. Replicating what many of us consider the “highest stakes” process in scientific research, NIH peer review, the authors convened four mock study sections, each with 8 to12 expert reviewers. These groups conducted reviews for 25 R01 grant proposals in oncology that had already received National Cancer Institute funding. The R01 is the most coveted of all NIH grants; only a handful of orthopaedic surgeons have active R01 grants.
Pier et al. then evaluated the critiques provided by the reviewers assigned to each proposal, finding no agreement among reviewer assessments of the overall rating, strengths, and weaknesses of each application. The authors also analyzed how well these mock reviews paired to the original NIH reviews. The mock reviewers (all of whom are R01-funded oncology researchers) “rated unfunded applications just as positively as funded applications.” In their abstract, Pier et al. conclude that “it appeared that the outcome of the [mock] grant review depended more on the reviewer to whom the grant was assigned than the research proposal in the grant.”
From my perspective as a taxpayer, this is head-scratching. But I will leave it to the lay media to explore that point of view, as the New York Times did recently. As a young clinician-scientist, these results are a bit intimidating. But these findings also provide empirical data corroborating what I have heard at every grant-funding workshop I’ve attended—your job as a grant applicant is to communicate clearly and concisely so that intelligent people can understand the impact and validity of your proposed work, regardless of their exact area of expertise. With each rejection I get, either from a journal or a funding agency, I now think about how I could have communicated my message more crisply.
Sure, luck is part of the process. Who you get as a reviewer clearly has some influence on your success. But to paraphrase an axiom I’ve heard many times: The harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.
Christopher Dy, MD, MPH is a hand and peripheral nerve surgeon, an assistant professor at Washington University Orthopaedics, and a member of the JBJS Social Media Advisory Board.
Under one name or another, The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery has published quality orthopaedic content spanning three centuries. In 1919, our publication was called the Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery, and the first volume of that journal was Volume 1 of what we know today as JBJS.
Thus, the 24 issues we turn out in 2018 will constitute our 100th volume. To help celebrate this milestone, throughout the year we will be spotlighting 100 of the most influential JBJS articles on OrthoBuzz, making the original content openly accessible for a limited time.
Unlike the scientific rigor of Journal content, the selection of this list was not entirely scientific. About half we picked from “JBJS Classics,” which were chosen previously by current and past JBJS Editors-in-Chief and Deputy Editors. We also selected JBJS articles that have been cited more than 1,000 times in other publications, according to Google Scholar search results. Finally, we considered “activity” on the Web of Science and The Journal’s websites.
We hope you enjoy and benefit from reading these groundbreaking articles from JBJS, as we mark our 100th volume. Here are two more:
Long-term Follow-up of Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis
B T Carney, S L Weinstein, J Noble: JBJS, 1991 January; 73 (5): 667
In this retrospective study of 155 hips with SCFE followed for a mean of 41 years after onset of symptoms, Carney et al. found that pinning in situ provided the best long-term function and delay of degenerative arthritis—and that realignment techniques were associated with a risk of substantial complications.
Treatment of Scoliosis: Correction and Internal Fixation by Spine Instrumentation
P R Harrington: JBJS, 1962 June; 44 (4): 591
The need for this at-the-time revolutionary instrumented approach was the polio epidemic, which left Dr. Harrington caring for many patients with severe, collapsing curves that threatened their health. Just as current hip arthroplasty techniques represent incremental improvements to the contribution of Charnley, current techniques in scoliosis surgery are stepwise improvements to Harrington’s work.
Most health researchers attribute the well-defined racial disparities seen in outcomes for both acute and chronic illnesses to unequal access to health care, particularly preventive care. There are currently between 30 million and 40 million uninsured patients in the US who do not have access to routine preventive care and receive the majority of their health care through hospital emergency rooms. This seems to be related to the prevailing opinion in our country that access to primary care physicians and routine preventive measures is not a basic right.
Emergency care, however, is more or less available to everyone, and that would theoretically reduce or eliminate the racial disparities in outcomes for emergent conditions such as hip fractures. Yet, in 2016, JBJS published research indicating that disparities in care and outcome occur in the management of hip fracture, with black patients found to be at greater risk for delayed surgery, reoperation, readmission, and 1-year mortality than white patients. That begs the question whether there are inherent racial differences beyond the health-care delivery system that might partly account for these disparate outcomes.
In the July 5, 2018 issue of The Journal, Okike et al. try to answer that question. The authors used data from Kaiser Permanente, a large health system with a modestly diverse population that has equal access to care that is known for its adherence to standardized protocols. Okike et al. analyzed the outcomes of nearly 18,000 hip fracture patients according to race (black, white, Hispanic, and Asian). In this uniformly insured population with few or no barriers to access, Okike et al. found that the outcomes for patients, regardless of race, were similar. These findings strongly suggest that when patients are given equal access to health care that is delivered according to standardized protocols, the racial disparities found in previous studies of outcomes of emergent conditions may disappear.
Okike et al. are quick to emphasize that their findings are not an indication that “efforts to combat disparities are no longer required.” I would argue that this study further supports the need to address the issue of access to care on a policy level if we are going to make progress toward achieving racial equality in medical and orthopaedic outcomes. Much of the access-to-care progress we made between 2008 and 2016 is evaporating; I look forward to the day when we can redirect the national focus on this issue at the highest policy-making levels.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD