The Need for Preop Psych Evals in Orthopaedic Surgery

OrthoBuzz occasionally receives posts from guest bloggers. This guest post comes from Impact Science, in response to a recent ”What’s Important” article in JBJS.

In orthopaedic surgery, pre-existing psychiatric conditions in patients can have a detrimental effect on outcomes. Previous studies have shown poor improvement in postoperative self-reported pain scores among patients with psychosomatic conditions or mood disorders. Robust published evidence also suggests that psychiatric conditions can lead to complications in the treatment course, including an increased length of hospital stay and higher total systemwide costs. However, despite compelling evidence in the literature, orthopaedic surgeons—especially those early in their career—lack protocols to evaluate a patient’s current and past psychiatric history and symptom severity.

A recent “What’s Important” article in The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery emphasizes the need for such an assessment tool. In the article, Albert T. Anastasio, MD, a resident in orthopaedic surgery at Duke University Medical Center, cites the example of bariatric surgery, where protocols have long existed for preoperative patient assessments for a history of alcohol and drug abuse. He argues convincingly that the development and use of such tools should be extended to orthopaedic procedures. For example, Dr. Anastasio questions the wisdom of a hypothetical elective spine surgery in a patient with an unaddressed psychosomatic disorder and borderline pathology on advanced imaging.

At the same time, Dr. Anastasio is quick to highlight the challenges of developing such a tool, mainly because of the subjective nature of psychiatric symptoms. But he cites existing tools that attempt to objectively evaluate psychiatric symptoms, such as the Patient Health Questionnaire-9, which is used to quantify the severity of major depressive disorder. Dr. Anastasio also cautions that any such metric should not serve as a “definitive cutoff” for surgery.

Underlying Dr. Anastasio’s call for psychiatric risk-assessment protocols is the importance of developing and enhancing collaboration between orthopaedics and psychiatry, two disciplines that he says are often “considered very far removed from each other.”

Impact Science is a team of specialized subject-area experts (Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Medicine & Humanities) who collaborate with authors, societies, libraries, universities, and various other stakeholders for services to enhance research impact. Impact Science aims to democratize science by making research-backed content accessible to the world.

One thought on “The Need for Preop Psych Evals in Orthopaedic Surgery

  1. I fully agree. Part of successful orthopedics is determining what to do upon whom ever is an acceptable candidate. 22 years in I still don’t fully catch all the crazies but am nagged by the adage even crazy people have surgical pathology.
    I have found preoperative evaluation and ongoing psychiatric treatment helpful but very hard to find at the community level.

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