Almost everyone else is doing an end-of-year tally of something, so why shouldn’t we? Here are links to the 10 OrthoBuzz posts with the highest number of page views during 2019:
- PRP for Tennis Elbow: What’s the “Secret Sauce”?
- Complications Following Overlapping Orthopaedic Procedures at an Ambulatory Surgery Center
- Stop Adding Antibiotics to Irrigation Solutions
- RF Ablation for Knee Arthritis
- A Rash of Broken Femoral Nails—What’s Up?
- “True Grit” Among Millennial Orthopaedists in Training
- Empathic Orthopaedists: Worth Waiting For
- Surgery for Rotator Cuff Tears: The Better of Two Goods
- VTE Prevention: Is Aspirin Really That Good?
- Stemming the Tide of Stem Cell Hype
We wish all our readers the best for a healthful and peaceful 2020.
Based on ample published data and experience, today’s hip surgeons can give patients who are considering total hip arthroplasty (THA) a good general idea of outcomes to expect. But what if orthopaedists could provide more tailored predictions of THA outcome, and thus help patients more realistically manage expectations?
That is essentially what Hesseling et al. set out to do in their database analysis of 6,030 THA patients gleaned from the Dutch Arthroplasty Register; the findings appear in the December 18, 2019 issue of JBJS. Using the patients’ Oxford Hip Scores (OHS) collected up to 1 year postoperatively and a sophisticated statistical technique called latent class growth modeling, the authors categorized outcome trajectories into 3 categories:
- Fast Starters (n = 5,290)—steep improvement in OHS during the first 3 postoperative months, after which the OHS leveled out
- Late Dippers (n = 463)—more modest improvement in OHS initially, followed by subsequent decline toward the 1-year mark
- Slow Starters (n = 277)—virtually no change at the 3-month mark, followed by an improvement in OHS at 1 year postoperatively
Although the authors were unable to tease out factors that clearly distinguished between late dippers and slow starters, they did identify several factors associated with less-than-fast-starter outcomes:
- Female sex
- Age >75 years
- Anxiety and depression
- American Society of Anesthesiologist (ASA) grade III or IV
- Hybrid fixation (cemented acetabular implant)
- Direct lateral surgical approach
Emphasizing that all 3 subgroups experienced functional improvement after THA, Hesseling et al. nevertheless provide useful information that can help surgeons more accurately estimate which patients might be at risk of a less favorable recovery.
The word “infection” contains 9 letters, but it’s a four-letter word for orthopaedic surgeons. Postoperative infections are complications that we all deal with, but we try hard to avoid them. Infections after elective sports surgeries can have especially devastating long-term consequences. Thankfully, scientific advances such as improved sterile techniques and more powerful prophylactic antibiotics have helped us decrease the rates of perioperative infections. But more can always be done in this arena.
Baron et al. discuss one additional infection-fighting approach in the December 18, 2019 issue of JBJS, where they report on findings from a retrospective cohort study that looked at 90-day infection rates after >1,600 anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstructions. Specifically, they investigated whether the rates of infection differed when the ACL grafts were prepared with or without a vancomycin irrigant. The average patient age was 27 years old, and all the surgeries (84.1% of which were primary reconstructions) were performed by 1 of 6 fellowship-trained surgeons. The graft was soaked in vancomycin solution in 798 cases (48.7%), while the remaining 51.3% did not use vancomycin.
Baron et al. found that 11 of the reconstructions were complicated by infection within 90 days, but only 1 of those 11 infections occurred in the vancomycin group (p=0.032). After controlling for various confounding factors, the authors found that increased body mass index and increased operative time were also significantly associated with postoperative infection, while age, sex, smoking, surgeon, and insurance type were not.
These results reveal an 89.4% relative risk reduction in postoperative infections after ACL reconstructions when grafts are bathed in vancomycin solution, although the absolute rate of infection among non-soaked grafts (1.2%) was still quite low. Time and more rigorous study designs will tell us whether this is a big step forward in the evolution of infection prevention, but these results should at least prompt further investigation.
Matthew R. Schmitz, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media
As the orthopaedic community continues to solve complex issues related to joint replacement, it has become apparent that deformity correction and component positioning are keys to long-term success. In terms of hip, knee, and shoulder arthroplasty, we have progressed throughout the last 50 years with improved functional outcomes and component longevity. Elbow arthroplasty development has lagged somewhat because indications for that procedure are much less common.
Meanwhile, total ankle arthroplasty (TAA) experienced a short-lived decade of enthusiasm in the late 1970s and early 1980s before it became apparent that improved component designs and surgical techniques were needed. Progress with TAA stalled until the late 1990s, but TAA has now become more predictable, and several successful designs are available with reasonable revision rates demonstrated during 10-plus years of follow-up. As with all arthroplasties, component alignment in TAA is critical, and we have therefore assumed that significant preoperative frontal plane deformity is a contraindication for this procedure.
However, in the December 18, 2019 issue of The Journal, Lee et al. challenge that assumption with midterm follow-up data on 146 TAAs that suggest patients with frontal plane deformities >20° should not necessarily be disqualified from having this procedure. In this study, prior to surgery, 107 ankles had moderate frontal plane deformity (5° to <15° of varus or valgus) and 41 ankles had severe deformity (>20° to 35° of varus or valgus). The authors found no difference between these groups in terms of functional outcomes, complications, or implant survival at a mean follow-up of 6 years. Lee et al. conclude that frontal malalignment >20° in patients with end-stage ankle osteoarthritis may not be a contraindication to proceeding with TAA. However, the authors emphasize that concomitant realignment procedures at the time of index arthroplasty (including ligament releases and corrective osteotomies) were much more common in the severe group.
These findings need confirmation from other groups and with longer-term follow-up so that data from lower-volume surgeons can be analyzed and later complications can be investigated. Still, it just may be that ankle arthroplasty is not as finicky as we have been thinking.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
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.
Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) has been used in multiple countries to treat the pain and function deficits associated with knee osteoarthritis (OA). The wavelength typically used is in the near-infrared region. However, this therapy is not recommended by most clinical guidelines, including those of the Osteoarthritis Research Society International. The hesitancy to recommend LLLT is due largely to conflicting published findings and unresolved dose-related issues such as wavelength, intensity, and frequency of treatment. For treating knee OA, the World Association for Laser Therapy (WALT) recommends applying four times the laser dose with continuous rather than pulsed irradiation.
To try to resolve conflicting evidence, Stausholm et al. conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized, placebo-controlled trials of LLLT, distilling 22 trials from 2,735 initially identified articles.1 Pain, as measured by a 0 to 100 mm visual analog scale (VAS), was significantly reduced by LLLT compared with placebo at the end of therapy (14.23 mm VAS; 95% CI 7.31 to 21.14) and during follow-ups 1 to 12 weeks later (15.92 mm VAS; 95% CI 6.47 to 25.37). Subgroup analysis revealed that pain was significantly reduced by the recommended LLLT doses compared with placebo at the end of therapy (18.71 mm VAS; 95% CI 9.42 to 27.99) and during follow-ups 2 to 12 weeks after the end of therapy (23.23 mm VAS; 95% CI 10.60 to 35.86).
Pain reduction from the recommended doses peaked during follow-ups 2 to 4 weeks after the end of therapy. Disability was also significantly reduced by LLLT, and no adverse events were reported in any of the studies. Notably, in light of JBJS Editor-in-Chief Marc Swiontkowski’s recent comments about the quality of meta-analyses, this meta-analysis was reported in accordance with PRISMA guidelines and all included trials were evaluated for risk of bias.
What remains unclear is how far past the skin the varied wavelengths and intensities (usually 1 to 8 Joules) of laser energy penetrate. Likewise, tissue heating has not been measured or analyzed. Still, at present, it appears that LLLT used with WALT guidelines is a safe and potentially effective treatment for the pain and dysfunction of knee OA.
- Stausholm MB, Naterstad IF Msc, Joensen J, Lopes-Martins RÁB, Sæbø H Msc, Lund H, Fersum KV, Bjordal JM. Efficacy of low-level laser therapy on pain and disability in knee osteoarthritis: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised placebo-controlled trials. BMJ Open. 2019 Oct 28;9(10):e031142. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2019-031142. PMID: 31662383
Every month, JBJS publishes a review of the most pertinent and impactful studies published in the orthopaedic literature during the previous year in 13 subspecialties. Click here for a collection of all such OrthoBuzz summaries. This month, co-author Philipp B. Leucht, MD selected the most clinically compelling findings from the 40 studies summarized in the December 4, 2019 “What’s New in Musculoskeletal Basic Science.”
–Recent findings about the cellular players in muscle regeneration may allow further development of clinical treatment options for patients with muscle sprains, tears, and loss. Toward that end, Wosczyna et al. established the crucial role of fibroadipogenic progenitors (FAPs, also called mesenchymal stromal cells) in muscle repair and maintenance.1 Using a mouse model, the researchers showed that FAPs are necessary for muscle regeneration by supporting muscle stem cells.
–The bone-derived hormone osteocalcin supports development of the musculoskeletal system and the brain. Osteocalcin can regulate anxiety and cognition in adult mice, and Obri et al. postulated that declining levels of osteocalcin may be responsible for the cognitive decline seen in aging.2 This finding may spur investigations into exogenous treatment with osteocalcin to restore brain function.
–Tendon cells express the transcription factor Scleraxis, which has facilitated the identification of the tendon stem progenitor cell (TSPC). Best and Loiselle identified a Scleraxis-positive cell population in the bridging scar tissue after tendon injury.3 These findings suggest that TSPCs are present in the adult tendon and contribute to the healing response; however, their small number does not result in successful tendon regeneration, but rather in scar formation with interspersed tendon tissue.
–Abraham et al. identified the upregulation of NF-κB (nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells) and its downstream targets in tendinopathy-affected human rotator cuff tendons.4 Using a transgenic mouse model in which IKKß (inhibitor of nuclear factor kappa-B kinase subunit beta), a key regulator of inflammation, was overexpressed, they demonstrated the development of tendinopathy in mouse rotator cuff tendons. The deletion of IKKß had a protective effect from chronic overuse.
–Successful bone healing after fracture is highly dependent on the presence and activation of skeletal stem cells. Chan et al. precisely defined the human skeletal stem cell (hSSC), demonstrated the hSSC’s role in human fracture repair, and provided evidence that these cells generate a bone marrow-supportive niche.5 These cells also give rise to bone, cartilage, and stromal progenitor cells.
- Wosczyna MN, Konishi CT, Perez Carbajal EE, Wang TT, Walsh RA, Gan Q, Wagner MW, Rando TA. Mesenchymal stromal cells are required for regeneration and homeostatic maintenance of skeletal muscle. Cell Rep.2019 May 14;27(7):2029-2035.e5.
- Obri A, Khrimian L, Karsenty G, Oury F. Osteocalcin in the brain: from embryonic development to age-related decline in cognition. Nat Rev Endocrinol.2018 Mar;14(3):174-82. Epub 2018 Jan 29.
- Best KT, Loiselle AE. Scleraxis lineage cells contribute to organized bridging tissue during tendon healing and identify a subpopulation of resident tendon cells. FASEB J.2019 Jul;33(7):8578-87. Epub 2019 Apr 5.
- Abraham AC, Shah SA, Golman M, Song L, Li X, Kurtaliaj I, Akbar M, Millar NL, Abu-Amer Y, Galatz LM, Thomopoulos S. Targeting the NF-κB signaling pathway in chronic tendon disease. Sci Transl Med.2019 Feb 27;11(481):eaav4319.
- Chan CKF, Gulati GS, Sinha R, Tompkins JV, Lopez M, Carter AC, Ransom RC, Reinisch A, Wearda T, Murphy M, Brewer RE, Koepke LS, Marecic O, Manjunath A, Seo EY, Leavitt T, Lu WJ, Nguyen A, Conley SD, Salhotra A, Ambrosi TH, Borrelli MR, Siebel T, Chan K, Schallmoser K, Seita J, Sahoo D, Goodnough H, Bishop J, Gardner M, Majeti R, Wan DC, Goodman S, Weissman IL, Chang HY, Longaker MT. Identification of the human skeletal stem cell. 2018; Sep 20;175(1):43-56.e21.
Rotational malalignment of the femoral component during total knee arthroplasty (TKA) is associated with poor outcomes, but how best to assess femoral component rotation intraoperatively remains an unanswered question for arthroplasty surgeons. Now, in the largest study of its kind, Jang et al. conclude in the December 4, 2019 issue of JBJS that combining 3 reference axes is the optimal strategy for ensuring accurate femoral component positioning, sex/ethnic generalizability, and intraoperative efficiency.
The authors compared 5 reference axes commonly used for intraoperative assessment of femoral component rotation by mapping them to >2,100 entire-femur CT scans from patients with nonarthritic knees. Using the surgical transepicondylar axis (sTEA) as the gold-standard reference, Jang et al. found that no single other axis was both highly accurate and relatively immune to ethnic and sex variability. Based on their findings, they instead recommend using a combination of 3 axes—posterior condylar axis externally rotated 3° (PCA + 3° ER), the Whiteside or sulcus line, and the anatomical transepicondylar axis (aTEA)—to ensure rotational alignment.
The authors also suggest a straightforward intraoperative process for using these 3 axes:
- Start with the PCA + 3° ER, which most accurately approximates the gold-standard sTEA.
- Then use the Whiteside or sulcus line, neither of which is significantly affected by sex or ethnicity.
- Finally, palpate for the aTEA to narrow the margin of error.
Citing a limitation to this CT-based study of nonarthritic knees, the authors note that “we could not account for the effects of cartilage wear or other changes caused by degenerative arthritis.”
Along the spectrum of early and late adopters in medicine, most orthopaedic surgeons fall in the middle. They wait for science to prove the efficacy and safety of an innovation, carefully review the published studies regarding that innovation, and adopt it if it will improve their patients’ outcomes.
In the December 4, 2019 issue of JBJS, Jules-Elysee et al. compare tranexamic acid (TXA) administered intravenously (IV) versus topically in a double-blinded, randomized controlled trial (RCT) of patients undergoing primary total knee arthroplasty (TKA). Level-I evidence is rare in the orthopaedic literature, so when a well-performed RCT comes out, we should closely evaluate its findings.
A potent antifibrinolytic, TXA has been shown in multiple studies to decrease blood loss associated with major orthopaedic procedures. However, there are persistent (but not necessarily evidence-based) concerns about its potential to cause thrombogenic complications, and the safest and most effective route of TXA administration remains an open question.
In this study, the IV group received TXA once before tourniquet inflation and again 3 hours later, along with a topical placebo given 5 minutes before tourniquet release. The topical group received an IV placebo at the same time intervals as the IV group, along with TXA delivered topically in the wound prior to tourniquet release. The authors found lower systemic levels of plasmin-anti-plasmin (PAP, a measure of fibrinolysis) in both groups 1 hour after tourniquet release, but PAP levels remained significantly lower in the IV group (indicating higher antifibrinolytic activity) 4 hours after tourniquet release, which was likely related to the second IV dose of TXA.
The authors also found no between-group difference in systemic or wound levels of prothrombin fragment 1.2 (PF1.2, a marker of thrombin generation), indicating there was no increase in thrombogenicity in the IV group. Interestingly, Jules-Elysee also found that the IV group had significantly higher hemoglobin and hematocrit levels 1 and 2 days after surgery, and those patients had a significantly shorter hospital stay.
Finding no major between-group differences in the mechanism of action, coagulation, or fibrinolytic profile, the authors concluded that a single IV dose of TXA may be the most simple protocol for hospitals to adopt if they are still concerned about TXA safety. Perhaps these Level-I findings will help some of the late adopters get over their fears about the safety of IV TXA.
Matthew R. Schmitz, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media