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JBJS Editor’s Choice: How Best to Treat Femoral Neck Fractures in Younger Adults

ORIF or THA for Femoral Neck Fx.gifIn the January 4, 2017 issue of The Journal, Swart et al. provide a well-done Markov decision analysis on the cost effectiveness of three treatment options for femoral neck fractures in patients between the age of 40 and 65: open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF), total hip arthroplasty (THA), and hemiarthroplasty. Plugging the best data available from the current orthopaedic literature into their model, the authors estimated the threshold age above which THA would be the superior strategy in this relatively young population.

For patients in this age group, traditional thinking has been to perform ORIF in order to “save” the patient’s native hip and avoid the likelihood of later revision arthroplasty. However, in this analysis THA emerges as a cost-effective option in otherwise healthy patients >54 years old, in patients >47 years old with mild comorbidity, and in patients >44 years old with multiple comorbidities.

On average, both THA and ORIF have similar outcomes across the age range analyzed. But ORIF with successful fracture healing yields slightly better outcomes and considerably lower costs than THA, whereas patients whose fracture does not heal with ORIF have notably worse outcomes than THA patients. This finding supports my personal bias that anatomical reduction and biomechanically sound fixation must be achieved in this younger population with displaced femoral neck fractures. The analysis confirmed that, because of poor functional outcomes with hemiarthroplasty in this population, hemiarthroplasty should not be considered. Poor hemiarthroplasty outcomes are likely related to the mismatch between the metal femoral head and the native acetabular cartilage, leading to fairly rapid loss of the articular cartilage and subsequent need for revision.

This analysis by Swart et al. provides very valuable data to discuss with younger patients and families when engaging in shared decision making about treating an acute femoral neck fracture. In my experience, most patients in this age group prefer to “keep” their own hip whenever possible, which puts the onus on the surgeon to gain anatomic reduction and biomechanically sound fixation with ORIF.

Marc Swiontkowski, MD
JBJS Editor-in-Chief

JBJS Reviews Editor’s Choice–Outpatient Joint Replacement?

knee-spotlight-image.png“Necessity is the mother of invention.” In recent years, the demand for total hip, total knee, and unicompartmental knee arthroplasty has grown substantially. However, with limited resources and health-care budgets, there is a need to reduce hospital costs. To that end, a number of surgeons have begun to perform these procedures on an outpatient basis.

Indeed, as the demand for joint replacements grows, it will be imperative to improve patient safety and satisfaction while minimizing costs and optimizing the use of health-care resources. In order to accomplish this goal, surgical teams, nursing staff, and physiotherapists will need to work together to discharge patients from the hospital as soon as safely possible, including on the same day as the operation. The development of accelerated clinical pathways featuring a multidisciplinary approach and involving a range of health-care professionals will result in extensive preoperative patient education, early mobilization, and intensive physical therapy.

In the December 2016 issue of JBJS Reviews, Pollock et al. report on a systematic review that was performed to determine the safety and feasibility of outpatient total hip, total knee, and unicompartmental knee arthroplasty. The authors hypothesized that outpatient arthroplasty would be safe and feasible and that there would be similar complication rates, similar readmission and revision rates, similar clinical outcomes, and decreased costs in comparison with the findings associated with the inpatient procedure. The investigators demonstrated that, in selective patients, outpatient total hip, total knee, and unicompartmental knee arthroplasty can be performed safely and effectively.

A major caveat of this well-conducted study, however, is that, like any systematic review, its overall quality is based on the quality of the individual studies that make up the analysis. In this case, the studies included those that lacked sufficient internal validity, sample size, methodological consistency, and standardization of protocols and outcomes. Thus, going forward, there is a need for more rigorous and adequately powered randomized trials to definitively establish the safety, efficacy, and feasibility of outpatient hip and knee arthroplasty.

Thomas A. Einhorn, MD
Editor, JBJS Reviews

JBJS Editor’s Choice: Advances in Ankle Replacement

Salto Talaris.gifWe have entered an era where total ankle arthroplasty (TAA) is accepted as a rational approach for patients with degenerative arthritis of the ankle. TAA results have been shown to be an improvement over arthrodesis in some recent comparative trials.

That was not always the case, however. In the 1980s, the orthopaedic community attacked ankle joint replacement with gusto, and numerous prosthetic designs were introduced with great enthusiasm based on short-term cohort studies. Unfortunately, the concept of TAA was all but buried as disappointing longer-term results with those older prosthetic designs appeared in the scientific literature. It took a full decade for new designs to appear and be subjected to longer-term follow-up studies before surgeons could gain ready access to more reliable instrumentation and prostheses. The producers of these implants behaved responsibly in this regard, facilitated by an FDA approval process that had increased in rigor.

In the December 21, 2016 issue of The Journal, Hofmann et al. publish their medium-term results with one prosthetic design that was FDA-approved in 2006.  Implant survival among 81 consecutive TAAs was 97.5% at a mean follow-up of 5.2 years. There were only 4 cases of aseptic loosening and no deep infections in the cohort. Total range of motion increased from 35.5° preoperatively to 39.9° postoperatively.

The fact that a high percentage (44%) of ankles underwent a concomitant procedure at the time of TAA attests to the need for careful preoperative planning for alignment of the ankle joint and the need for thorough assessment of the hindfoot. The fact that a substantial percentage (21%) of ankles underwent another procedure after the TAA attests to the need for thoughtful benefit-risk conversations with patients prior to TAA.

I think the TAA concept and procedure are here to stay, but we still have much work to do in fine-tuning prosthetic designs and instrumentation and enhancing surgeon education for more reliable outcomes.

Marc Swiontkowski, MD
JBJS Editor-in-Chief

JBJS Editor’s Choice: Improving Function After Fragility Fractures

hip_fracture_drugs_11_16_16In the past several years, the orthopaedic community has become highly engaged in improving the follow-up management of patients presenting with fragility fractures. We have realized that orthopaedic surgeons are central to the ongoing health and welfare of these patients and that the episode of care surrounding a fragility fracture represents a unique opportunity to get patients’ attention. Using programs such as the AOA’s “Own the Bone” registry, increasing numbers of orthopaedic practices and care centers are leading efforts to deliver evidenced-based care to fragility-fracture patients.

In the November 16, 2016 edition of The Journal, Aspenberg et al. carefully examine the impact of the anabolic agent teriparatide versus the bisphosphonate risedronate on the 26-week outcomes of more than 170 randomized patients (mean age 77 ±8 years) who were treated surgically for a low-trauma hip fracture. This investigation is timely and appropriate because our systems of care are evolving so that increasing numbers of patients are receiving pharmacologic intervention for low bone density both before and after a fragility fracture.

The secondary outcomes of the timed up and go (TUG) test and post-TUG test pain were better in the teriparatide group, but there were no differences in radiographic fracture healing or patient-reported health status.

Although this study was designed primarily to measure the effects of the two drugs on spinal bone mineral density at 78 weeks, these secondary-outcome findings confirm the value of initiating pharmacologic intervention early on after a fragility fracture, whether it’s a bisphosphonate or anabolic agent. The orthopaedic community needs to continue leading multipronged efforts to deal with the public health issues of osteoporosis and fragility fractures.

Click here for additional OrthoBuzz posts related to osteoporosis and fragility fractures.

Marc Swiontkowski, MD
JBJS Editor-in-Chief

JBJS Editor’s Choice: Research into Female Surgeon Safety

dosimeterThe evolution of more rational educational programs and other societal changes point to a future where an increasing number of orthopaedic surgeons will be female. Thankfully, we have made gains in adjusting the medical community’s perspective on careers in orthopaedic surgery. No longer are we perceived to be “stronger than a mule and twice as smart” or merely “buckles and braces men.” Evolving interventional techniques that rarely require brute force have also helped change this view.

At the same time, with the rapidly increasing need for musculoskeletal care as the population ages, we need every orthopaedic practitioner—male and female—to remain as healthy and active as possible.  Epidemiologic studies of surgeon health have revealed real concerns for neck and back degenerative changes and cancer risk.

In the November 2, 2016 edition of The Journal, Valone et al. tackle the issue of exposure of the female breast to intraoperative radiation. In a nifty study incorporating C-arm fluoroscopy and an anthropomorphic torso phantom equipped with breast attachments and dosimeters, the authors found that:

  • The median dose-equivalent rate of scatter radiation to the breast’s upper outer quadrant (UOQ) was higher than that to the lower inner quadrant.
  • C-arm cross-table lateral projection was associated with higher breast radiation exposure than anteroposterior projection.
  • Size, fit, and breast coverage of lead protection matter.

The findings should prompt redesign of protective aprons and vests to more effectively cover the breast and axilla. We could also use more well-designed longitudinal studies to identify the risk factors for neck, back, and shoulder injury as well as gain a better understanding of the real risk of surgeon exposure to intraoperative radiation.

Annual occupational radiation dose limits to the breast have not yet been established. But in the meantime, Valone et al. recommend distancing the axilla from the C-arm and placing the X-ray source beneath the operating table or on the contralateral side to reduce radiation exposure to the UOQ of the breast.

Marc Swiontkowski, MD
JBJS Editor-in-Chief

JBJS Editor’s Choice: Ankle Fractures—Is Hospitalization Ever Needed?

ankle_fracture_2016-10-19The practice of orthopaedic surgery is moving fairly rapidly to the outpatient environment. Advances in less invasive surgical procedures, regional anesthesia, and postoperative pain management have provided the foundation for this transition. The migration to outpatient surgery centers enables surgeons to use surgical teams more focused on orthopaedic technology and practice parameters. The concern that arises in everyone’s mind, though, is the issue of safety.

In the October 19, 2016 issue of JBJS, Qin et al. analyzed the NSQIP database and found that the outpatient surgical treatment of patients with a closed ankle fracture and minimal comorbidities resulted in lower risk of pneumonia and no difference in surgical morbidity, reoperations, and readmissions when compared with inpatient surgery.

The NSQIP dataset is voluntary and, as with any database, confounding variables are unavoidable. But these authors used propensity score matching and Bonferroni correction to minimize selection bias and manage multiple comparisons.

The study excluded emergency cases, cases with preoperative sepsis, and cases of open ankle fracture, and I can still foresee that patients with more severe fracture patterns, soft tissue compromise, and unstable medical comorbidities would be better off treated as inpatients. Nevertheless, it is reassuring that this study found no differences in complication or readmission rates. These findings reinforce the movement of orthopaedic surgical practice to the outpatient setting, and in my experience that movement is wholly welcomed by patients and their families.

Marc Swiontkowski, MD
JBJS Editor-in-Chief

JBJS Editor’s Choice: Patient Comprehension Improved with “Multisensory” Info

orthinfo_for_obuzz_2016-10-06Excellent communication is critical to helping patients understand medical information—and to achieving truly “informed” consent for invasive and noninvasive interventions. Effective patient-provider communication also results in better information retention and more reasonable expectations of treatment outcome, and it’s one hallmark of a high-quality patient experience.

In the October 5, 2016 edition of The Journal, Egekeze et al. report the results of a randomized clinical trial evaluating retention of information provided to patients newly diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis. Each of 67 participants was randomized to receive one of three informed-consent information-delivery protocols, all of which lasted 10 minutes:

  1. A one-on-one clinician-delivered lecture about knee arthritis, written at an eighth-grade reading level (auditory input only)
  2. The same lecture as above but accompanied by a silent animated knee video (auditory + visual input).
  3. The same lecture but accompanied by an anatomic knee model that patients were encouraged to touch (auditory + visual + tactile input).

The third group’s comprehension scores were significantly higher than those of the other two groups, leading the authors to conclude that there is a “direct association between the amount of sensory input incorporated into an informed consent discussion and patient comprehension performance.”

I am quite sure that the majority of physicians, surgeons, PAs, and NPs treating patients for musculoskeletal problems already routinely use anatomic models to facilitate patient understanding, and this study supports continuation of that practice. In my experience, the use of pre-recorded video information, ideally including interviews with patients who have the condition the current patient is being evaluated for, is also very effective in shared decision making processes. Research such as that provided by Egekeze et al. should stimulate us to use multisensory methods when communicating with patients about treatment options and expected outcomes.

Marc Swiontkowski, MD
JBJS Editor-in-Chief

JBJS Reviews Editor’s Choice—Pediatric Infection

Untitled-2.pngInfection, whether acute, chronic, local, or systemic, is something that all surgeons respect and fear. To counter infection, tissue injury activates an acute-phase response mediated by the liver and promotes coagulation, immunity, and tissue regeneration. However, microorganisms are able to survive and disseminate throughout tissues because of virulence factors that they express. These virulence factors help to modulate and hijack the acute-phase response.

In this month’s Editor’s Choice article, An et al. discuss how an understanding of virulence strategies of musculoskeletal pathogens will help to guide clinical diagnosis and decision-making through monitoring of acute-phase markers such as C-reactive protein, the erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and fibrinogen. As pathogenic bacteria possess virulence factors that allow them to invade, persist, and disseminate within the human body, this review focuses on the pathophysiology of musculoskeletal infection and the virulence factors that enable pathogens to thrive within the context of tissue damage.

The authors demonstrate that tissue injury ruptures anatomic compartment boundaries, leading to the contamination of microenvironments that require complex physiological processes for proper temporary repair. Certain organisms, such as Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes, have evolved mechanisms for evading and hijacking the hemostatic, tissue regenerative, and antimicrobial properties of the acute-phase response. Indeed, a better understanding of the virulence strategies used by pathogenic microorganisms should enhance our ability to treat infections and improve patient outcomes in the future.

Thomas A. Einhorn, MD
Editor, JBJS Reviews

JBJS Editor’s Choice: HTO Remains Relevant

marc-swiontkowski-2Sport activity continues to increase in priority in modern society. And with a concomitant increase in single-sport focus early in life and near year-round training, the incidence of knee injuries will also continue to increase.  Among surgeons and patients, there has been some waning of interest in high tibial osteotomy (HTO) for the most common form of unicompartmental arthritis because results from   unicompartmental arthroplasty keep improving, but HTO remains an appropriate choice for patients with very high functional demand.

In the September 21, 2016 issue of The Journal, Ekhtiari et al. report on the findings of a well-conducted systematic review on return-to-work and -sport outcomes of HTO. The authors found that more than four-fifths of patients returned to work or sport, usually within a year after surgery. Approximately four-fifths of patients returned to sport at a level equal to or greater than their preoperative level, and among non-military patients included in the review, 97.8% returned to work at an equal or greater level.

As with most systematic reviews in orthopaedic surgery, the basic concern here is with the quality of the literature that forms the basis of the analysis. The vast majority of studies included in the review were Level IV case series, which leads to concerns about selection and detection bias. Those concerns notwithstanding, a return to sport activity of 87% at a mean follow-up of longer than 5 years is remarkable.

We must recognize that patients who wish to return to sport are the most highly motivated population we serve. HTO should not fall off our radar screen of options for patients with high functional demand and medial compartment arthritis, for they can be some of the most satisfied patients we treat.

Marc Swiontkowski, MD
JBJS Editor-in-Chief

JBJS Editor’s Choice: Short (or No) Hospital Stays for TJAs

swiontkowski marc color.jpgIn the September 7, 2016 issue of The Journal, Sutton III et al. report results from a sophisticated analysis of the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP) database confirming that hospital discharge 0 to 2 days after total joint arthroplasty (TJA) is safe in select patients in terms of 30-day major-complication and readmission rates. Large dataset analyses like this represent the next step in confirming what has been going on at the grass-roots level across the world—a movement toward outpatient TJAs and/or very early discharges following those procedures. (See related “Global Forum” article in the July 6, 2016 JBJS.)

This trend has been associated with very high patient satisfaction and low morbidity. The movement away from multiple-day hospital admission and toward rapid discharge to home or alternative postoperative care environments such as hotels or rehabilitation centers has far surpassed the novelty stage and is under way in every major metropolitan area around the world. The trend is a welcome motivation for us to address patient expectations for the postoperative period, which are specifically linked to more judicious use of narcotic medication accompanied by regional and local anesthetic efforts and liberal use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication. Total joint replacement is the ideal surgical intervention to lead this no- or short-hospitalization movement because of the standardized surgical approaches and requirements for implants, blood-loss management, and thromboprophylaxis.

I envision a time in the not-too-distant future where 80% to 90% of musculoskeletal post-intervention care takes place outside of the hospital environment, a shift that will require efficient use of remote-monitoring technology and continued improvement in post-intervention pain management. Hospitals will then become the setting for very complex events like organ transplantation, appropriate intensive care, and high-level trauma care. This will result in lowering the overall cost of care, improving patient satisfaction (who among us would not rather sleep in our own bed?), and minimizing nosocomial complications.

Marc Swiontkowski, MD
JBJS Editor-in-Chief