This post comes from Fred Nelson, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon in the Department of Orthopedics at Henry Ford Hospital and a clinical associate professor at Wayne State Medical School. Some of Dr. Nelson’s tips go out weekly to more than 3,000 members of the Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS), and all are distributed to more than 30 orthopaedic residency programs. Those not sent to the ORS are periodically reposted in OrthoBuzz with the permission of Dr. Nelson.
Orthopaedic surgeons may not be at the forefront of dealing with nonoperative nerve pain, but many of our patients who are not candidates for surgery suffer from spine-related nerve pain in their limbs, such as sciatica. Both gabapentin (GBP, Neurontin) and pregabalin (PGB, Lyrica) are used to treat chronic sciatica (CS).
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an important pain-related neurotransmitter, although neither GBP nor PGB affect the GABA receptor. Instead, both drugs associate with the ligand of the auxiliary α2δ-1 and α2δ-2 subunits of certain voltage-dependent calcium channels in nerves. Among other uses, Neurontin is prescribed to treat diabetic peripheral neuropathy, and Lyrica is commonly used to treat fibromyalgia.
Investigators reporting in JAMA Neurology sought to help guide practitioners in the initial choice of drug. Eighteen patients with MRIs corroborating single-sided nerve-root sciatic pain of at least 3 months duration were evaluated in an interim analysis as part of a randomized, double-blind, double-dummy crossover trial of PGB vs GBP (8 weeks of exposure to each drug with a 1-week washout in between). The primary outcome was pain intensity measured with a 10-point visual analog scale (VAS) at baseline and 8 weeks. Secondary outcomes included disability as measured with the Oswestry Disability Index and the severity and frequency of adverse events.
Relative to baseline, both drugs showed significant VAS pain reductions and disability-score improvements, However, head-to-head, GBP showed superior VAS pain reduction (mean [SD], GBP: 1.72 [1.17] vs PGB: 0.94 [1.09]; P = 0.035), regardless of the order in which it was given. There were no between-drug differences in disability scores, but adverse events for PGB were more frequent (PGB, 31 [81%] vs GBP, 7 [19%]; P = 0.002), especially when PGB was taken first.
The authors conclude that GBP was superior with fewer and less severe adverse events, and they suggest that gabapentin should be commenced before PGB to permit optimal crossover of medicines.
Robertson K, Marshman LAG, Plummer D, Downs E. Effect of Gabapentin vs Pregabalin on Pain Intensity in Adults WIth Chronic Sciatica: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Neurol. 2018 Oct 15. doi: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2018.3077. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 30326006
How much opioid analgesia do pediatric patients need after closed reduction and percutaneous pinning of a supracondylar humeral fracture? Not as much as they are being prescribed, suggests a study of 81 kids (mean age of 6 years) by Nelson et al. in the January 16, 2019 issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.
All patients in the study underwent closed reduction and percutaneous pinning at a single pediatric trauma center. The authors collected opioid utilization data and pain scores (using the Wong-Baker FACES scale) for postoperative days 1 to 7, 10, 14, and 21 via a text-message system, with automated text queries sent to the phones of the parents/guardians of the patients. (Click here for another January 16, 2019 JBJS study that relied on text messaging.)
Not surprisingly, the mean postoperative pain ratings were highest on the morning of postoperative day 1, but even those were only 3.5 out of a possible 10. By postop day 3, the mean pain rating decreased to <2. As you’d expect, postoperative opioid use decreased in parallel to reported pain.
Overall, patients used only 24% of the opioids they were prescribed after surgery. (See related OrthoBuzz post about the discrepancy between opioids prescribed and their actual use by patients.) Considering that pain levels and opioid usage decreased in this patient population to clinically unimportant levels by postoperative day 3, the authors conclude that “opioid prescriptions containing only 7 doses would be sufficient for the majority of [pediatric] patients after closed reduction and percutaneous pinning without compromising analgesia.”
Now that some normative data such as these are available, Nelson et al. “encourage orthopaedic surgeons treating these common [pediatric] injuries to reflect on their opioid-prescribing practices.” They also call for prospective randomized studies into whether non-narcotic analgesia might be as effective as opioid analgesia for these patients.
After a wildly successful inaugural visit to Saudi Arabia in 2018, the 5-day Miller Review Course (MRC) for orthopaedists in training will return to Riyadh from April 22-27, 2019, at the Fairmont Hotel.
The location for this intense and comprehensive orthopaedic review course—the Saudi capital and the nation’s most populous city—caters to attendees from Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, but it is open to orthopaedists-in-training from anywhere in the world. Attendees will receive not only the finest in orthopaedic review courses, but also an eye-opening introduction to Saudi life, culture, and food.
The expert Miller faculty will cover 9 orthopaedic subspecialties, plus basic science, statistics, anatomy, and musculoskeletal rehabilitation. In line with Saudi medical training, this version of the MRC is conducted exclusively in English.
The expansion of the largest orthopaedic review course in the US to the Middle East is a unique opportunity for any orthopaedic resident/registrar to prepare for the next step in their career.
Click here to register and to preview the faculty and agenda.
Background: Elderly patients with a displaced femoral neck fracture treated with hip arthroplasty may have better function than those treated with internal fixation. We hypothesized that hemiarthroplasty would be superior to screw fixation with regard to hip function, mobility, pain, quality of life, and the risk of a reoperation in elderly patients with a nondisplaced femoral neck fracture.
Background: Two main treatments for end-stage ankle arthritis are ankle arthrodesis and total ankle arthroplasty (TAA). While both procedures can be performed either by a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon or a podiatrist (when within a particular state’s scope of practice), studies comparing the surgical outcomes of the 2 surgeon types are lacking. Therefore, in this study, we compared outcomes by surgeon type for TAA and for ankle arthrodesis.
Every month, JBJS publishes a review of the most pertinent and impactful studies published in the orthopaedic literature during the previous year in one of 13 subspecialties. Click here for a collection of all OrthoBuzz subspecialty summaries. This month, Michael J. Taunton, MD, author of the January 16, 2019 “What’s New in Adult Reconstructive Knee Surgery,” selected the five most compelling findings from among the more than 100 noteworthy studies summarized in the article.
Cementless vs Cemented TKA Fixation
—A matched case-control study of 400 primary total knee arthroplasties (TKAs) found that cementless TKAs had a 0.5% rate of aseptic loosening over a mean follow-up of 2.5 years, while cemented TKAs had an aseptic loosening rate of 2.5%.1
TKA Component Size in Obese Patients
—Among 35 revision-TKA patients with a varus collapse of the tibia, 29 weighed >200 lbs. Fehring et al. found that patients with implants at the small end of the range of the manufacturer’s tibial size offering and with >5° of preoperative varus were at increased risk of tibial-component failure.2
—A retrospective multivariate analysis of >4,300 patients who underwent outpatient TKA and >128,900 patients who underwent inpatient TKA found that, within 1 year, those who had outpatient procedures were more likely to experience a tibial and/or femoral component revision due to a noninfectious cause, irrigation and debridement, explantation of the prosthesis, and stiffness requiring manipulation under anesthesia.
—In a randomized trial of patients undergoing TKA, one group received 15 mg/kg of systemic intravenous vancomycin, and a second group received intraosseous regional administration of 500 mg vancomycin into the tibia. Mean tissue concentrations of the antibiotic were 34.4 mg/g in the intraosseous group and 6.1 mg/g in the intravenous group, suggesting that intraosseous administration provides a significantly higher tissue concentration of that antibiotic. 3
TKA Anesthesia Protocol
—A retrospective review of 156 consecutive patients who underwent primary TKA found that procedures performed with mepivacaine spinal anesthesia led to fewer episodes of urinary catheterization and shorter mean length of stay compared with procedures performed with bupivacaine spinal anesthesia.4
- Miller AJ, Stimac JD, Smith LS, Feher AW, Yakkanti MR, Malkani AL. Results of cemented vs cementless primary total knee arthroplasty using the same implant design. J Arthroplasty.2018 Apr;33(4):1089-93. Epub 2017 Dec
- Fehring TK, Fehring KA, Anderson LA, Otero JE, Springer BD. Catastrophic varus collapse of the tibia in obese total knee arthroplasty. J Arthroplasty.2017 May;32(5):1625-9. Epub 2017 Jan 30.
- Chin SJ, Moore GA, Zhang M, Clarke HD, Spangehl MJ, Young SW. The AAHKS Clinical Research Award: intraosseous regional prophylaxis provides higher tissue concentrations in high BMI patients in total knee arthroplasty: a randomized trial. J Arthroplasty.2018 Jul;33(7S):S13-8. Epub 2018 Mar 15.
- Mahan MC, Jildeh TR, Tenbrunsel TN, Davis JJ. Mepivacaine spinal anesthesia facilitates rapid recovery in total knee arthroplasty compared to bupivacaine. J Arthroplasty.2018 Jun;33(6):1699-704. Epub 2018 Jan 16.
Trying to educate elderly patients and their family members about how to best treat a femoral neck fracture can be difficult. These patients typically have multiple—and often severe—medical comorbidities that can make even the most “simple” surgery complex and life-threatening. Making such discussions even harder is the lack of Level-I evidence related to treating these common injuries. For severely displaced fractures, the evidence supports performing either a hemi- or total hip arthroplasty on most patients. But the data is much less clear for minimally or nondisplaced fractures.
For these reasons, I was excited to read the study by Dolatowski et al. in the January 16, 2019 issue of JBJS. The authors performed a prospective, randomized controlled trial comparing internal screw fixation to hemiarthroplasty for valgus impacted or nondisplaced femoral neck fractures in >200 patients with a mean age of 83 years. They found that patients who underwent hemiarthroplasty had a significantly faster “up-and-go” test and were significantly less likely to undergo a major reoperation than those who underwent internal fixation. However, patients in the internal-fixation group were less likely to develop pulmonary complications. There were no between-group differences in overall hip function (as evaluated with the Harris hip score) or in the 24-month mortality rate.
This study lends support to what many surgeons tell elderly patients with a nondisplaced femoral neck fracture: a hemi- (or total) arthroplasty will probably provide the lowest risk of needing a repeat operation for the injury, while placing percutaneous screws may decrease the risk of cardiopulmonary complications related to the operation. While these findings may not be surprising, this study provides important Level I data that can help us educate patients and their families so that the best treatment for each individual patient can be determined.
Chad A. Krueger, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media
The relationship between orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons and podiatric surgeons has been checkered. Many have advocated that the orthopaedic community should isolate itself from interaction with the podiatric community. Conversely, a smaller group of orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons have recommended sharing CME endeavors with podiatric surgeons, and combining clinical services with them. As long as individual states continue to legislate surgeon scope-of-practice matters (38 states currently allow podiatric surgeons to perform ankle surgery), it seems to me that shared learning, combined clinical services, and collaborative research make the most sense for advancing foot and ankle care for as many patients as possible. We should all be willing to work with our surgical colleagues to improve everyone’s decision making and skill.
In the January 16, 2019 issue of The Journal, Chan et al. probe an administrative database to evaluate several outcomes after total ankle arthroplasty (TAA) and ankle arthrodesis performed by both types of surgeon. Probably because many podiatrists self-limit their practices to forefoot surgery, podiatric surgeons provided the treatment for only 18% of the patients in both ankle-surgery groups. When podiatrists were the primary surgeon, the authors found increased lengths of stay for both procedures and increased hospital costs for arthrodesis patients. The authors did not investigate the reasons for these increases, but they should be investigated in the future. Chan et al. did find that, in general, podiatric surgeons operated on sicker patients and tended to work in smaller, non-teaching hospitals.
The authors also found an increasing percentage of these procedures being performed by podiatrists over the period from 2011 to 2016. This is likely related to multiple factors, including variable availability of orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons relative to podiatric surgeons in many communities, and an increased number of podiatry training programs that specialize in hindfoot surgery.
It seems to me that data like these from Chan et al. should be shared with both communities to foster discussions regarding how to optimize length of stay, costs, and patient outcomes across the board. The goal should always be to raise every surgeon’s level of care for the benefit of all patients.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
When planning for any type of surgical procedure, the orthopaedist considers many patient and injury-specific variables. With a distal radius fracture, for example, the main goal of the surgery—anatomic reconstruction of the distal radius—remains constant. However, there are numerous other variables (fracture morphology and patient age, just to name 2) that have to be considered to achieve that goal. Yet, when it comes to postoperative pain control, I imagine that most orthopaedic surgeons prescribe the same amount of opioids to almost every patient undergoing an open reduction/internal fixation of a distal radius fracture, regardless of unique patient characteristics. Our medical mantra that “no two patients are the same” seems to fall by the wayside when it comes to postoperative pain control.
This disconnect is what I thought about while reading the article by Stepan et al. in the January 2, 2019 issue of The Journal. The authors’ institution developed and disseminated to all prescribers a 1-hour opioid education program and consensus-based postoperative opioid prescription guidelines. They then compared the number of opioid pills and total oral morphine equivalents prescribed after 9 ambulatory procedures within 3 subspecialty services (sports medicine, hand, and foot and ankle) prior to and after implementation of the guidelines. Stepan et al. found a significant decrease in the amount of narcotics prescribed after 6 of the 9 surgery types after implementation of the guidelines. Over the course of a year, those decreases would have equaled about 30,000 fewer opioid pills!
Interestingly, there was no significant post-guideline decrease in opioid prescribing after any of the 3 foot-and-ankle procedures. The authors attribute that finding to the slow adoption of the guidelines due to adherence to previously developed pain-management recommendations in this subspecialty.
It has become apparent that we tend to overprescribe opioids postoperatively (see related OrthoBuzz post). This study supports previous data showing that prescription guidelines can be useful in decreasing the amount of postoperative narcotics prescribed to patients, while maintaining adequate pain management and good levels of patient satisfaction. While further work in developing educational tools and procedure-specific “standards” to help surgeons guide their postoperative prescribing practices would be useful, a surgeon’s mindfulness is equally important. We need first to recognize that orthopaedic surgeons tend to overprescribe postoperative opioids—and second, we must be willing to change our habits. Without both awareness and willingness, the best guidelines and recommendations will be ignored, and an opportunity for us to help curb the opioid crisis in our country will be wasted.
Chad A. Krueger, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media
When Medicare’s Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR) program was implemented in 2016, the health care community—especially orthopaedic surgeons— had 2 major concerns. First, would the program actually demonstrate the ability to decrease the costs of total joint replacements while maintaining the same, or improved, outcomes? Second, would CJR promote the unintended consequence of participating hospitals and surgeons ”cherry picking” lower-risk patients and steering clear of higher-risk (and presumably higher cost) patients? Both of these questions were at the heart of the study by Barnett et al. in a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
The authors evaluated hip and knee replacements at 75 metropolitan centers that were mandated to participate in the CJR program and compared the costs, complication rates, and patient demographics to similar procedures at 121 control centers that did not participate in CJR. The authors found significantly greater decreases in institutional spending per joint-replacement episode in institutions participating in the CJR compared to those that did not. Most of these savings appeared to come from CJR-participating institutions sending fewer patients to post-acute care facilities after surgery. Furthermore, the authors did not find differences between centers participating in the CJR and control centers in terms of composite complication rate or the percentage of procedures that were performed on high-risk patients.
While this 2-year evaluation does not provide the level of detail necessary to make far-reaching conclusions, it does address two of the biggest concerns related to CJR implementation from a health-systems perspective. There may be individual CJR-participating centers that are not saving Medicare money or that are cherry picking lower-risk patients, but overall the program appears to be doing what it set out to do—successfully motivating participating hospitals and healthcare facilities to look critically at what they can do to decrease the costs of a joint-replacement episode while simultaneously maintaining a high level of patient care. The Trump administration shifted CJR to a partly voluntary model in March 2018, and I hope policymakers consider these findings if further changes to the CJR model are planned.
Chad A. Krueger, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media