The orthopaedic community has been abuzz lately with conversations about the value of interdisciplinary teamwork among clinicians and shared decision-making between patients and clinicians. The positive results of both those approaches, implemented with children and adolescents who have cerebral palsy (CP), are revealed in a clinical cohort study by Louwers et al. in the August 15, 2018 JBJS.
The authors engaged 66 patients with CP in a comprehensive, multidisciplinary screening process and shared decision-making to determine each patient’s suitability for upper-extremity surgery. Forty-four patients were deemed eligible for surgery and 39 (mean age of 15 years) underwent surgery. Seven types of surgery were performed, depending on each patient’s predetermined goals, values, and preferences. Seventy-seven percent of patients had surgery that consisted of flexor carpi ulnaris tendon release or transfer and adductor pollicis muscle slide plus extensor pollicis longus rerouting.
The authors itemize the preoperative and postoperative assessment tools used in the study and describe them as “suitable for selecting patients for upper-extremity surgery and for evaluating the effect of that surgery.”
The bottom line: All outcomes improved significantly after patient-specific upper-extremity surgery in those deemed suitable for it and who opted for surgery after the shared decision-making process. Most of the patients experienced clinically relevant improvement in their functional and cosmetic goals and in manual performance 9 months after their operation.
The two patients who chose nonsurgical treatment after going through the assessment and shared decision-making process did so due to a lack of motivation for the intensive postoperative rehabilitation, which began with upper-limb immobilization for 5 to 6 weeks, followed by a program customized for each patient by his or her rehabilitation physician and occupational therapist.
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.
There are many suggested applications for platelet-rich plasma (PRP), including tendon repair, osteoarthritis, and other musculoskeletal conditions. However there is considerable controversy in the absence of convincing evidence about the optimal mix and concentration of white blood cells and platelets in PRP, and the most clinically effective nature and quantity of constituent cytokines or other biochemical agents in PRP.
Despite these lingering questions, PRP is commonly used to treat lateral epicondylitis (LE), commonly called “tennis elbow.” As with its other applications, the clinical use of PRP for painful tendons has received much attention, but its efficacy remains controversial.
To continue investigating the clinical effects of PRP and its individual components, researchers recruited 156 patients with LE and randomly divided them into those treated with a single injection of 2-mL autologous PRP and those who received only physical therapy without injection.1 Both groups used a tennis elbow strap and performed stretching and strengthening exercises for 24 weeks, at which point pain and functional improvements were assessed using the visual analog scale (VAS), Modified Mayo Clinic Performance Index for the elbow, and MRI. Levels of platelet-derived growth factor-AB (PDGF-AB), PDGF-BB, transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β), vascular endothelial growth factor, epithelial growth factor, and interleukin-1 β in the PRP were measured for statistical correlation with clinical scores.
At 24 weeks, all pain and functional variables—including VAS score, Mayo Clinic performance scores, and MRI grade—improved significantly in the PRP group, relative to the noninjection group (p < 0.05). The TGF-β level in the PRP significantly correlated with Mayo Clinic performance score and MRI grade improvement.
The PRP level of TGF-β appears to be important in tendon healing, but future studies will be required to determine the best relative concentrations of white blood cells and platelets that deliver specific cytokines such as TGF-β. However, these results help identify a viable protocol for measuring PRP efficacy in tendinopathies.
- Lim W, Park SH, Kim B, Kang SW, Lee JW, Moon YL. Relationship of cytokine levels and clinical effect on platelet-rich plasma-treated lateral epicondylitis. J Orthop Res. 2018 Mar;36(3):913-920. doi: 10.1002/jor.23714. Epub 2017 Sep 20. PMID: 28851099
Lateral epicondylar tendinopathy (“tennis elbow”) that is refractory to the usual interventions of physical therapy/home-directed exercise, ice therapy, corticosteroid injections, and rest is a relatively common but very difficult clinical situation. Patients often become frustrated by the lack of improvement and want something to alleviate the pain and disability. However, the orthopaedic community has been reluctant to recommend surgical intervention except for the most severe cases because the outcomes of this surgery are not as predictable as we would like.
It is within this context that Creuzé et al., in the May 16, 2018 issue of The Journal, present results from a double-blind randomized trial elucidating the impact of low-dose Botulinum toxin injection on this chronic condition. Just over half of the patients treated with the Botulinum toxin injection (n = 29) had a >50% reduction in their initial pain intensity at day 90, and almost 20% felt completely cured. Those results were significantly better than those experienced by the group treated with placebo injections (n = 28).
Kudos to the industry sponsor of this study for supporting the double-blind design, because it removed a significant potential bias that might have otherwise tainted the results. The only fault I can find in the trial is a lack of reporting on the patients’ hand dominance and the magnitude of functional demand on their affected limbs. Before and after treatment, a patient who uses power tools with a dominant and affected limb during a physically demanding job may well have more severe symptoms than a person who works at a computer and whose dominant and affected limb is the “non-mouse” extremity.
It is rare indeed to find a study that blinds the administrator of an orthopaedic intervention, as injections and oral medications are not the most prominent tools in our predominantly surgical armamentarium. The inclusion criteria in the Creuzé et al. study reflected a realistic but difficult patient-enrollment scenario—a minimum of 6 months of symptoms (a mean of almost 19 months) despite previous attempts at all other well-known interventions. The fact that nearly all subjects in both groups had a previous steroid injection into the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) muscle and continued to experience symptoms confirms the difficulty of these cases and represents what many patients go through in search of an effective treatment.
Furthermore, the fact that only 50% of patients in the intervention group achieved significant pain relief reflects the refractory nature of this condition in many patients. These findings seem to indicate that surgical intervention will remain a necessary component of care for patients with lateral epicondylitis who are not cured by Botulinum toxin injection or other, more common treatment modalities—and that we should pay attention to improving surgical outcomes.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
Medical economics has progressed to the point where musculoskeletal physicians and surgeons cannot ignore the financial implications of their decisions. Unfortunately, in most practice locations it is difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain the downstream costs to patients and insurers of our postsurgical orders for imaging, laboratory testing, and physical therapy (PT). In the April 18, 2018 issue of The Journal, Egol et al. present results from a well-designed and adequately powered randomized trial of outcomes after patients with minimally or nondisplaced radial head or neck fractures were referred either to outpatient PT or to a home exercise program focused on elbow motion.
At all follow-up time points (from 6 weeks to an average of 16.6 months), the authors found that patients receiving formal PT had DASH scores and time to clinical healing that were no better than the outcomes of those following the home exercise program. In fact, the study showed that after 6 weeks, patients following the home exercise program had a quicker improvement in DASH scores than those in the PT group.
The minor limitations with this study design (such as the potential for clinicians measuring elbow motion becoming aware of the treatment arm to which the patient was assigned) should not prevent us from implementing these findings immediately into practice. Each patient going to physical therapy in this scenario would have cost the healthcare system an estimated $800 to $2,400.
I wonder how many other pre- and postsurgical decisions that we routinely make would change if we had similar investigations into the value of ordering postoperative hemoglobin levels, surgical treatment of minimally displaced distal fibular fractures, routine postoperative radiographs for uncomplicated hand and wrist fractures, and PT after routine carpal tunnel release. These are just some of the reflexive decisions we make on a daily basis that probably have little to no value when it comes to patient outcomes. Whenever possible, we need to think about the downstream costs of such decisions and support the appropriate scientific evaluation of these commonly accepted, but possibly misguided, practices.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
Under one name or another, The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery has published quality orthopaedic content spanning three centuries. In 1919, our publication was called the Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery, and the first volume of that journal was Volume 1 of what we know today as JBJS.
Thus, the 24 issues we turn out in 2018 will constitute our 100th volume. To help celebrate this milestone, throughout the year we will be spotlighting 100 of the most influential JBJS articles on OrthoBuzz, making the original content openly accessible for a limited time.
Unlike the scientific rigor of Journal content, the selection of this list was not entirely scientific. About half we picked from “JBJS Classics,” which were chosen previously by current and past JBJS Editors-in-Chief and Deputy Editors. We also selected JBJS articles that have been cited more than 1,000 times in other publications, according to Google Scholar search results. Finally, we considered “activity” on the Web of Science and The Journal’s websites.
We hope you enjoy and benefit from reading these groundbreaking articles from JBJS, as we mark our 100th volume. Here are two more:
Fractures of the Neck of the Talus: Long-Term Evaluation of 71 Cases
S T Canale and F B Kelly Jr: JBJS, 1978 Jan; 60 (2): 143
One of the most challenging diagnoses for general orthopedic surgeons and fracture specialists alike is a fracture of the talar neck. In this landmark JBJS article, the authors focused attention on the importance of quality of reduction and created an enduring fracture classification that paralleled complication rates and potential outcomes.
A Biomechanical Study of Normal Functional Elbow Motion
B F Morrey, L J Askew, E Y Chao: JBJS, 1981 Jan; 63 (6): 872
This JBJS article convincingly answered the question about the minimal range of elbow motion needed to accomplish activities of daily living. Using modern 3-dimensional optical tracking technology 30 years after Dr. Morrey’s study appeared, Sardelli et al. found only minimal ROM differences compared to findings in the Morrey study.
Every month, JBJS publishes a Specialty Update—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 OrthoBuzz Specialty Update summaries.
This month, Aaron Chamberlain, MD, co-author of the October 18, 2017 Specialty Update on shoulder and elbow surgery, selected the most clinically compelling findings from among the 36 studies summarized in the Specialty Update.
Reverse Shoulder Arthroplasty
With reverse shoulder arthroplasty, surgeons often have difficulty setting expectations for patients due to the lack of long-term outcomes data. Bacle et al. published a study that describes the clinical outcomes in patients with at least 10 years’ follow-up. Medium-term outcomes among an original cohort of 186 patients had been previously described. Eighty-four of those original patients were available for a mean long-term follow-up of 150 months. The mean overall Constant score fell from 63 at medium-term follow-up to 55 at final follow-up. Active anterior elevation also decreased from 138° to 131.° Despite the decrease in Constant score and ROM between mid- and long-term follow-up, these two measures remained significantly better than preoperative values. Analysis showed a 93% implant survival probability at 120 months. This study will help surgeons counsel patients regarding long-term expectations after reverse shoulder arthroplasty – especially as younger patients are increasingly indicated for this procedure.
Rotator Cuff Repair
A central focus of studies evaluating rotator cuff repair has been to better understand the biological environment that influences tendon healing. Greater understanding of the genetic influence in rotator cuff pathology may lead to interventions that could improve the healing environment. Tashjian et al. reported outcomes after arthroscopic rotator cuff repair in 72 patients who were assessed for family history of rotator cuff tears and underwent a genetic analysis looking for variants in the estrogen-related receptor beta (ESRRB) gene.1 Positive family history and tear retraction were associated with a failure of healing, and lateral tendon retears were associated with both family history and the presence of a single nucleotide polymorphism in the ESRRB gene.
In another recent study focused on the biological healing environment after rotator cuff repair, a prospective randomized trial of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) in patients undergoing repair of a medium to large-sized rotator cuff tear2 found that patients who received PRP experienced an increase in vascularity at the repair site up to 3 months postoperatively. The PRP group also demonstrated better Constant-Murley and UCLA scores and lower retear rates than the no-PRP group, but there was no difference in ASES scores. In another recent randomized trial, 120 patients were randomized to either PRP or ropivacaine injection after rotator cuff repair.3 No between-group differences in clinical outcome scores or retear rates were identified. The contrasting results of these two recent randomized studies illustrate the challenge of identifying any conclusive benefit of PRP in the setting of rotator cuff repair.
Prosthetic Shoulder Infection
Accurate diagnosis of prosthetic shoulder infection continues to present a formidable challenge, given the difficulty of detecting Proprionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) and interpreting when positive results are clinically significant. Development of P. acnes tests that are more rapid and precise in identifying clinically significant infections would be of significant value. Holmes et al. evaluated a PCR restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) technique to identify P. acnes from infected tissue in the shoulder.4 In this study, within 24 hours of sampling, the PCR-RFLP assay detected P. acnes-specific amplicons in as few as 10 bacterial cells.
Approaches to managing clavicle fractures have evolved significantly over the past several decades. While it was once generally accepted that middle third clavicle fractures should be managed nonoperatively, multiple studies have described concerning rates of nonunions and symptomatic malunions. A multicenter prospective trial that randomized patients to either surgical fixation with a plate or nonoperative management identified a nonunion rate of 23.1% in the nonoperatively managed group, compared with a 2.4% nonunion rate in the surgically treated group (p<0.0001). However, the rate of secondary operations was 27.4% in the operatively treated group (most for plate removal) versus 17.1% in the nonoperative group, although that difference did not reach statistical significance (p=0.18). These results will help inform discussions between providers and patients when considering management options for midshaft clavicle fractures.
- Tashjian RZ, Granger EK, Zhang Y, Teerlink CC, Cannon-Albright LA. Identification of a genetic variant associated with rotator cuff repair healing. J Shoulder Elb Surg. 2016. doi:10.1016/j.jse.2016.02.019.
- Pandey V, Bandi A, Madi S, et al. Does application of moderately concentrated platelet-rich plasma improve clinical and structural outcome after arthroscopic repair of medium-sized to large rotator cuff tear? A randomized controlled trial. J Shoulder Elb Surg. 2016;26(3):e82-e83. doi:10.1016/j.jse.2016.01.036.
- Flury M, Rickenbacher D, Schwyzer H-K, et al. Does Pure Platelet-Rich Plasma Affect Postoperative Clinical Outcomes After Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Repair? Am J Sports Med. 2016. doi:10.1177/0363546516645518.
- Holmes S, Pena Diaz AM, Athwal GS, Faber KJ, O’Gorman DB. Neer Award 2017: A rapid method for detecting Propionibacterium acnes in surgical biopsy specimens from the shoulder. J Shoulder Elb Surg. 2017. doi:10.1016/j.jse.2016.10.001.
Several studies have demonstrated good short- and intermediate-term outcomes with total elbow arthroplasty (TEA) to treat acute distal humeral fractures. Now, in the September 20, 2017 issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, Barco et al. provide data confirming that TEA provides durable pain relief and motion improvements over a minimum of 10 years, albeit with a number of major complications.
Among 44 TEAs performed in elderly patients with and without inflammatory arthritis whom the authors followed for ≥10 years, the mean Mayo Elbow Performance Score was 90.5 points. Five elbows (11%) developed deep infection that required surgical treatment. The revision-free survival rates for elbows with rheumatoid arthritis were 85% at 5 years and 76% at 10 years, while survival rates for elbows without rheumatoid arthritis were 92% at both time points. That difference was not statistically significant, although men in the study were much more likely to experience a revision than women. Twenty-five of the 44 patients died during the long-term follow-up, but the majority of those had their implant in place.
While reporting on these promising long-term revision-free survival rates, Barco et al. emphasize that complications were “frequent and diverse in nature…and have required a reoperation, including implant revision, in 12 of 44 patients.” So, while the good news is that a majority of patients in this situation will die with a useful joint and sound implant, the authors conclude that “surgeons treating this kind of injury should follow their patients over time and should be prepared to manage a wide array of complications using complex techniques.”
In the April 5, 2017 issue of The Journal, Noureldin et al. analyzed more than 14,000 procedures from the NSQIP database to determine the rate of unplanned 30-day readmission after outpatient surgical procedures of the hand and elbow. The 1.2% rate seems well within the range of acceptability, particularly because the more than 450 institutions contributing to this database probably serve populations who don’t have the best overall health and comorbidity profiles.
Missing causes for about one-third of the readmissions illustrate one issue with data accuracy in these large administrative datasets. While the authors acknowledged a “lack of granularity” as the greatest limitation in analyzing large databases, they added that the readmissions with no listed cause “were likely unrelated to the principal procedure.”
It was not surprising that infection was the most common cause for readmission. However, it would have been nice to know the rate of confirmed infection via positive cultures, as I suspect many of these patients were readmitted for erythema, swelling, warmth, and discomfort associated with postoperative hematoma rather than infection.
Regardless of the need for higher-quality data on complications following outpatient orthopaedic surgical procedures, this analysis gives us more confidence that the move toward outpatient surgical care in our specialty is warranted. I think most patients would rather sleep in their own home as long as preoperative comorbidities and ASA levels are considered and adequate postoperative pain control can be achieved in an outpatient setting. The trend toward outpatient orthopaedic treatment is likely to continue as we gather higher-quality data and better understand the risk-benefit profile.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
When surgeons and patients discuss what treatment will work best for a particular musculoskeletal ailment, they often rely on both “subjective” and “objective” outcome data from previously published assessments. Reviewing both types of data is a good idea, because a study among more than 100 patients with shoulder osteoarthritis by Matsen et al. in the March 1, 2017 issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery found poor correlation between objective measures of active abduction and subjective patient self-assessments using the Simple Shoulder Test (SST).
The authors used a statistical method called “coefficient of determination”
to confirm “a highly variable relationship” between the patient-reported SST (subjective) and motor-sensor range-of-motion (objective) measurements. In less statistical language, many of the shoulders had good motion and poor self-assessed function, while others had poor motion and good self-assessed function.
The findings led the authors to conclude that “studies of treatment outcomes should include separate assessments of these 2 complementary aspects of shoulder function.” That conclusion was seconded and expanded upon in a commentary by Jeffrey S. Abrams, MD, who wrote that “either [subjective or objective] assessment used independently may lead to the wrong impression.”
The exact mechanism by which osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) lesions develop is poorly understood. This month’s “Case Connections” spotlights 3 case reports of OCD in young baseball players, 2 of whom developed the condition in the shoulder. A fourth case report details 3 presentations of bilateral OCD of the femoral head that occurred in the same family over 3 generations.
The springboard case report, from the December 28, 2016, edition of JBJS Case Connector, describes a 16-year-old Major League Baseball (MLB) pitching prospect in whom an OCD lesion of the shoulder healed radiographically and clinically after 8 months of non-throwing and physical therapy focused on improving range of motion and throwing mechanics. Three additional JBJS Case Connector case reports summarized in the article focus on:
- Shoulder OCD in a teenage baseball player that was treated arthroscopically
- Early elbow OCD in young throwers
- Three cases of bilateral femoral head OCD that occurred in multiple members of the same family
Among the take-home points emphasized in this Case Connections article:
- MRI arthrograms are the best imaging modality to determine the stability of most OCD lesions. Radiographs in such cases often appear normal.
- Early-stage OCD has the potential to heal spontaneously. Activity modification and physical therapy are effective treatments.
- There is not a “gold-standard” surgical intervention for treating unstable/late-stage OCD. Surgery frequently provides clinical benefits but often does not result in radiographic improvement.