Archive | Editor’s Choice RSS for this section

Risk Factors for Failure after FAI Treatment

Orthopaedic surgeons continually seek to refine techniques to improve their patients’ surgical outcomes. Surgical treatments for femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) syndrome are no exception, and careful patient selection is also critical to the success of these interventions. In the June 17, 2020 issue of The Journal, Ceylan et al. analyzed a single-surgeon prospective database to identify risk factors for treatment failure after a particular hip-preservation surgery known as mini-open femoroacetabular osteoplasty (FAO). In this study, the authors defined “failure” as the eventual need for a total hip arthroplasty (THA) over a minimum 2-year follow-up.

The 749 procedures studied were performed between 2004 and 2016 and involved treatment of the femur, acetabular rim, labrum, and chondral surfaces if necessary. Labral repair was performed on all hips that had adequate healthy tissue, while those that did not were treated with partial or total excision of the labrum.

Sixty-eight  hips (9%) underwent THA. The patients who did not need a hip replacement were significantly younger (mean age of 33 years vs nearly 42) and were operated on after the surgeon had more experience. Other significant differences among the failure group included the duration of symptoms (twice as long, at 3.6 years), higher preop alpha angles, and a higher percentage of total labral resections performed.

Radiographic evidence of hip dysplasia was also a significant risk factor for failure, along with labral hypertrophy and acetabular retroversion (both of which may be considered proxies for volume-deficient acetabuli). After adjusting for covariates, Ceylan et al. found that less surgeon experience, older patient age, prolonged preoperative symptoms, increased medial joint space narrowing and Tonnis grade, and developmental hip dysplasia were all associated with a higher risk of failure after FAO surgery.

Although these findings do not represent results using the most up-to-date arthroscopic techniques for FAI treatment, they do highlight characteristics that can and should be discussed with patients with FAI when the subject of expected surgical outcomes arises during shared decision making.

Matthew R. Schmitz, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media

Reoperation Rates for Wrist-Arthritis Treatments

With contemporary teaching and advanced-imaging diagnostic protocols, the incidence of advanced wrist arthritis related to scaphoid nonunion and carpal instability seems to be decreasing. When this condition does present, the longstanding debate about treatment pits preserving the carpal bone mass with a 4-corner arthrodesis (FCA) against resecting the proximal row of carpal bones (proximal row carpectomy, or PRC) to provide better motion. At issue have been concerns about the durability and reoperation rates for these two treatment approaches.

In the June 17, 2020 issue of The Journal, Garcia et al. tap into the Veterans Health Administration  data warehouse to help clarify this treatment dilemma. The authors identified 1,168 patients with stage-II SLAC (scapholunate advanced collapse) or SNAC (scaphoid nonunion advanced collapse) patterns of wrist arthritis. The outcomes of interest were subsequent conversion to total wrist arthrodesis and secondary surgical procedures after FCA and PRC.

Using propensity score analysis, the authors established matched cohorts of 251 cases of each procedure. The rate of conversion to total wrist arthrodesis was virtually identical in both matched groups, but far fewer patients who underwent FCA avoided a subsequent nonarthrodesis operation compared with those who underwent PRC (83.5% vs 99.7%, respectively).

Based on these findings and the evidence in previously published literature, the authors say, “We believe that PRC may be preferable to FCA in patients with symptomatic stage-II SLAC/SNAC wrist arthritis.” I think this choice should always be the result of shared decision making that itemizes the pros and cons of both procedures—especially taking into account patient preferences related to expected functional outcomes.

Marc Swiontkowski, MD
JBJS Editor-in-Chief

TKA Cost Efficiency Is Improving, But We Can Do Better

Wide variability in the cost and quality of health care in the US has led some to describe our system as “uniquely inefficient.” Consequently, we continue to study variability intensely, especially in the realm of joint arthroplasty. In the June 3, 2020 issue of The Journal, Schilling et al. elegantly analyze the variations in 90-day episode payments made by Medicare Part A for total knee arthroplasty (TKA) from 2014 to 2016. In so doing, they provide a snapshot of hospital cost performance and, just as importantly, they offer a methodology by which to measure future hospital-level cost performance with this very popular surgery.

The authors reviewed >700,000 TKAs in the Medicare population at a time prior to the full implementation of the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR) model, and they ranked >3,200 hospitals within 9 US regions to determine cost performance.  Schilling et al. found that during those 3 years, the mean Medicare episode payment for TKA decreased significantly, due almost entirely to a >$1,500 per-case decrease in post-acute care payments, which included lower costs for skilled nursing facilities and inpatient rehabilitation. Also decreasing during that same period were length of hospital stay and 90-day readmission rates.

These findings highlight the improvements in care and cost efficiency that were occurring even before implementation of the CJR. In a Commentary on this study, Susan Odum, PhD suggests that “the improved value of TKA illustrated by Schilling et al. includes the successful impacts of the BPCI [Bundled Payments for Care Improvement] program,” an alternative payment model that Medicare rolled out beginning in 2013.

On the other hand, the authors also reveal a persistently high degree of variability in episode payments and resource utilization both across and within geographic regions. This strongly suggests the possibility of further improvement. Regardless of which, if any, alternative payment model we participate in, everyone in the orthopaedic community should think about how to become more efficient in our delivery of musculoskeletal care. And this study provides a conceptual framework and benchmarks for identifying where the room for improvement is.

Matthew R. Schmitz, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media

PROM ‘Crosswalks’ Are a Big Step Forward

Patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) for orthopaedic procedures have long been used in clinical research. In the last decade, the use of PROMs has expanded to include quality-of-care assessments and, in some healthcare systems, to help calculate costs and reimbursements. All this has made PROMs increasingly visible to patients.

There are several validated and widely used PROMs for hip and knee arthroplasty. One problem with those is that the data from one PROM are not interchangeable with data from another. That disconnect limits the opportunity for meaningful data aggregation and thwarts large-scale population research.

In the June 3, 2020 issue of The Journal, Polascik et al. tackle this problem head-on. They report on a “crosswalk” system that allows back-and-forth conversion between 4 of the most commonly used PROMS—the Oxford hip and knee scores and the HOOS and KOOS short-form scores. The authors developed this tool by applying sophisticated statistical methods to data from a large cohort of hip and knee arthroplasty patients. The accuracy of the 4 crosswalks Polascik et al. developed was substantiated when they found minimal differences between the means of the known and crosswalk-derived scores.

This practical tool for converting scores is a substantial advance in patient-reported outcomes research. It will further facilitate the pooling of data for use in future clinical research, quality-of-care initiatives, and reimbursement systems. Patients, surgeons, researchers, and health systems alike all stand to benefit greatly.

Marc Swiontkowski, MD
JBJS Editor-in-Chief

JBJS Announces 2019 EST Award Winners

JBJS Essential Surgical Techniques (EST) and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (JBJS) give out two annual awards–one for the best Subspecialty Procedure (SP) article, and the other for the best Key Procedures (KP) video published during each calendar year.

We are pleased to announce the winners for 2019:

Both articles are freely available online until the end of August 2020.

Submissions for the 2020 EST Awards are currently being accepted.

Preop Nerve Blocks for Hip Fractures – Sooner Is Better

The benefits of peripheral nerve blocks for pain control and decreased use of opioids has been well-established for several orthopaedic procedures. In the May 20, 2020 issue of The Journal, a prospective cohort study by Garlich et al. shows that administering such a block earlier rather than later significantly benefits elderly patients awaiting surgery for a hip fracture.

The authors looked at whether the time to block (TTB) with a fascia iliaca nerve block (FIB) in a cohort of 107 patients who sustained a hip fracture affected preoperative opioid consumption and postoperative pain scores. They also examined the relationship between TTB and length of stay and adverse events related to opioids. All FIBs were performed between the time of emergency department arrival and ≥4 hours prior to surgery. Those parameters allowed time for the block to work and also time for the patients in this cohort to request pain medication.

Preoperatively, 72% of all opioid consumption took place prior to block placement. Patients experiencing a faster TTB consumed fewer opioids preoperatively and also on postoperative days 1 and 2, although the day-2 differences were not statistically significant. More specifically, Garlich et al. found a 63.7% reduction in the median preoperative opioid consumption in those with a TTB <8.5 hours from the time of arrival, relative to those whose TTB was ≥8.5 hours.

In addition, patients with a TTB <8.5 hours had significantly lower pain scores on postoperative day 1, and their hospital stays were significantly shorter than those who received blocks ≥8.5 hours after arrival (4.0 days versus 5.5 days). There were no differences in opioid-related adverse events between the TTB groups, although commentator Dr. Patrick Schottel notes that the study was underpowered to definitively discern those between-cohort differences.

Overall, this important study shows that early preoperative FIB reduces perioperative opioid consumption in geriatric patients with hip fractures, in addition to decreasing their pain scores and length of hospital stay. Further investigation is needed to determine the optimal timing for administering preoperative blocks in this vulnerable population.

Matthew R. Schmitz, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media

High-Level Clinical Research in Developing Countries? Yes!

Generally speaking, orthopaedic surgeons in low-resourced environments deliver the best care for their patients with skill, creativity, and passion. These surgeons are accustomed to scrambling for implants and other tools and to working around limited access to operating theaters and anesthesia services. Their everyday struggles usually leave little energy or time to even think about clinical research.

However, in the May 20, 2020 issue of The Journal, Haonga and colleagues prove that, with a “little help from their friends,” it is possible to conduct Level I research while treating patients in a resource-limited setting. They enrolled and followed 221 patients with open tibial fractures (mostly males in their 30s injured in a road-traffic collision) and randomized them to treatment with either uniplanar external fixation or intramedullary (IM) nailing. The nails were supplied by SIGN Fracture Care International, a not-for-profit humanitarian organization that provides specially designed IM nails that can be used without image intensification to hospitals in developing countries around the world. (See related OrthoBuzz post.)

The research was done in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in collaboration with trauma surgeons and epidemiologists from the University of California San Francisco, which has a long-standing relationship with Tanzania’s Muhimbili National Hospital. At the 1-year follow-up, there were no significant between-group differences in primary-outcome events—death or reoperation due to deep infection, nonunion, or malalignment. IM nailing was associated with a lower risk of coronal or sagittal malalignment, and quality-of-life (QoL) scores favored IM nailing at 6 weeks, but QoL differences dissipated by 1 year.

Just as important as the clinical findings, these investigators proved that it is possible to do high-level research in centers with high patient volume and limited resources. Future patients will benefit because the clinicians now have better information to share regarding expectations for functional recovery and risk of infection. Physicians and other healthcare professionals benefit because data like this help improve their analytical skills and become more discerning appraisers of the published literature. With strong internal physician leadership and a little outside support, Haonga et al. have convinced us that prospective—and even randomized—research is possible in these special places.

Finally, SIGN deserves our support as a true champion of orthopaedic surgeons working in under-resourced environments. In addition to providing education and implants, SIGN surgeons are required to report their cases through the SIGN Surgical Database—which encourages the research mindset and helps SIGN surgeons improve tools and techniques for better patient outcomes.

Marc Swiontkowski, MD
JBJS Editor-in-Chief

Is the Tethering Juice Worth the Squeeze in AIS?

The tried-and-true treatment for progressive adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is a posterior spinal fusion (PSF). However, for skeletally immature patients, there is increasing interest in motion-sparing growth modulation, specifically anterior vertebral body tethering (AVBT). Early reports on tethering looked promising, but the long-term prognosis remains fuzzy.

Newton et al. clarify this somewhat in the May 6, 2020 issue of JBJS. They retrospectively compared outcomes among a cohort of 23 AVBT patients followed for a mean of 3.4 years with those among a matched cohort of 26 PSF patients followed for a mean of 3.6 years. The groups were well-matched in terms of demographics and preoperative curve measurements, but the AVBT group was slightly less skeletally mature based on triradiate cartilage status and Sanders classification.

The authors found that both groups experienced significant postoperative curve correction, but the PSF group had significantly greater immediate correction of the main thoracic curve (78%) than the AVBT group (36%). Smaller immediate correction is to be expected in a growth-modulation procedure, which allows the spine to “grow straighter” over time with the tether. But at the final follow-up, the AVBT group had only a 43% curve correction versus 69% final follow-up correction in the PSF group. In addition, 9 revision procedures occurred in the AVBT group, versus none in the PSF group. Twelve patients (52%) in the AVBT group had evidence of broken tethers, with 3 of those patients undergoing revision surgery due to curve progression linked to tether breakage.

Overall, 12 of 23 patients in the AVBT group (52%) were deemed a “clinical success” at the end of the study (defined as a thoracic curve <35° without a need for a secondary fusion) while all 26 patients in the PSF group were deemed a clinical success. Anterior vertebral body tethering may have a role in the treatment of scoliosis in the growing spine, but the results to date, including these from Newton et al., lead me to question whether the tethering “juice” in its current form is worth the “squeeze.”

Matthew R. Schmitz, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media

Weight-Bearing CT: An Incremental Step in Addressing Posttraumatic Ankle Arthritis

Orthopaedic surgeons recognize that an intra-articular fracture of the distal tibia (pilon fracture) is the worst actor when it comes to the sequela of posttraumatic ankle osteoarthritis. Despite decades of focusing on surgical techniques that yield the best-looking postoperative radiographs, we have come to realize that, to reduce the risk of subsequent arthritis, limiting the extent of the surgical approach may be as important as achieving the “perfect” articular reduction. Slowly we have come to understand that articular cartilage damage from the injury (and in some instances exacerbated by overaggressive surgical dissection) is as big a factor as the bone injury in terms of postoperative joint-space narrowing and its associated ankle stiffness and pain.

Thankfully, the orthopaedic trauma community is making strides toward new biologic, mechanical, and rehabilitative interventions that have the potential to limit this articular narrowing. But to meaningfully evaluate the effectiveness of these strategies, we need not only validated patient-oriented functional outcome measures, but also more reliable and reproducible ways to assess the joint-space narrowing.

In the May 6, 2020 issue of The Journal, Willey et al. report on a standardized technique using weight-bearing computed tomography (WBCT), which yields a 3D assessment of the postoperative joint space with the ankle in a loaded, functional position (see Figure above). When this technique was applied to 20 patients (mean age of 44 years) with a partial or complete articular pilon fracture 6 months after surgical treatment, the authors found significantly less tibiotalar joint space in the injured ankle compared with the uninjured ankle. Interrater correlation and test-retest data indicated that this method has good measurement reliability and reproducibility.

Any safe, reliable, and reproducible measure of early joint-space narrowing after pilon fracture surgery is an important incremental step in designing clinical trials that will assess new interventions designed to preserve postoperative joint space—and hopefully reduce the incidence of posttraumatic ankle arthritis. Willey et al. have demonstrated the usefulness of WBCT as such a modality.

Marc Swiontkowski, MD
JBJS Editor-in-Chief

Romosozumab for Hip Fractures: All That Glitters Is Not Gold

We have all come to realize that promising results from lab studies or preclinical trials in animal models do not always translate into meaningful clinical benefits in humans. Yet it is vitally important to perform those human trials to ascertain that knowledge. This is demonstrated by Schemitsch et al. in the April 15, 2020 edition of The Journal. The authors performed a Level I, double-blinded, randomized controlled trial comparing varying doses of romosozumab to placebo in the treatment of older patients with a hip fracture.

Romosozumab is a sclerostin-inhibiting antibody that helps increase bone formation while decreasing resorption. It is indicated to treat osteoporosis in postmenopausal women, in whom the drug has been shown to increase bone mineral density and reduce the risk of fragility fractures. In multiple preclinical studies, romosozumab has increased bone mass and bone strength in rodent osteotomy models, suggesting it might possibly promote fracture healing in people.

In the current study, Schemitsch et al. randomized patients between 55 and 95 years old who had a low-energy hip fracture amenable to internal fixation to receive 3 postsurgical subcutaneous injections of romosozumab at doses of either 70 mg (60 patients), 140 mg (93 patients), or 210 mg (90 patients), or to receive 3 placebo injections (89 patients). The primary end point was the validated “timed Up and Go” (TUG) score. The authors also measured the Radiographic Union Scale for Hip (RUSH) score, and hip pain on a visual analog scale (VAS).

The authors enrolled 325 patients, with 263 (79.2%) reaching the 24-week follow up and 229 (69.0%) reaching the 52-week follow up. They found no statistically significant between-group differences in the TUG, with all patients improving and plateauing at week 20. Similarly, there were no differences between any of the treatment arms in time to radiographic healing, RUSH scores, or VAS. The safety profile of the medication was similar between the 3 romosozumab doses and the placebo.

Romosozumab may increase bone mineral density and reduce the risk of fragility fracture in patients with osteoporosis, but when it comes to helping heal hip fractures, it did not prove to be more advantageous than placebo. This shows, yet again, that what may glitter in animal studies may not necessarily shine like gold in clinical trials with people.

Matthew R. Schmitz, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media