In the past decade, we’ve learned through a multitude of studies that patient factors can have a substantial impact on the outcomes of orthopaedic interventions. Medical comorbidities, body habitus, and level of fitness are just a few factors we have evaluated. We also now better understand the impact of socioeconomic status and education level on access to care and the results of that care. And importantly, contemporary research is giving us a more complete picture of the relationship between a patient’s mental status and functional outcomes.
Geng et al. provide further insight into this relationship in a recent JBJS report. In a randomized controlled trial conducted at their institution in the People’s Republic of China, the authors investigated whether psychological intervention for patients with depression improved outcomes of total knee arthroplasty (TKA). Among 600 patients prospectively screened, 53 were identified with depressive disorders; 49 remained in the final analysis (24 randomized to standard TKA care and 25 randomized to perioperative psychotherapeutic interventions administered by a mental health professional). Those in the intervention group not only had a significantly higher rate of satisfaction compared with the control group, but they also showed greater improvements in functional outcome scores, range of motion, and scores on depression scales.
As Pablo Castañeda, MD emphasizes in a related Commentary on this article, “Total knee replacement cannot be seen as an isolated intervention without considering the many other factors that contribute to outcomes.” I know that mental health concerns—especially depression—can be difficult to identify during all-too-brief orthopaedic consultations with patients. But they will reap important benefits if we learn to better recognize depression, engage patients in conversations related to mental health, and team with our mental health colleagues for referrals and support. The study by Geng et al. points to a model of care with potential for wider adoption. Considering our community of highly motivated orthopaedic surgeons who are dedicated to the holistic welfare of patients, I believe it is possible to raise our skills in this area close to the level of our ability to examine a knee radiograph.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD