As a journalist covering symposia at the 2019 AAOS Annual Meeting last week, I repeatedly heard the phrase “in my hands…,” referring to a surgeon’s individual experience with this or that technique. That got me to thinking about a research letter published in the March 6, 2019 issue of JAMA Surgery. This retrospective cross-sectional analysis of emergency department data revealed that the annual number of patients ≥65 years old presenting to US emergency departments with fractures associated with walking leashed dogs more than doubled during 2004 to 2017. Women sustained more than three-quarters of those fractures, and while the hip was the most frequently fractured body part, collectively, the upper extremity was the most frequently fractured region. Slightly more than one-quarter of those patients were admitted to the hospital.
The authors rightly pinpoint the “gravity of this burden”; the hip-fracture data alone are worrisome. And in a related online article by hand and wrist surgeons from Rush University Medical Center (titled “Doggy Danger”), the focus is on the many injuries that the human leash-holding apparatus can sustain. The authors of the JAMA Surgery research letter and the Rush authors offer common-sense advice for all us older dog walkers out there, including:
- Dog obedience training that teaches Bowser not to pull or lunge while on leash
- Selection of smaller dogs for older people contemplating acquiring a canine companion
- Holding the leash in your palm, not wrapping it around your hand
- Paying attention to where you walk, and being situationally aware (That means not texting while your dog is momentarily sniffing to see who peed on that post.)
- Selecting footwear that is appropriate for the terrain and environmental conditions during your walk
To these tidbits I would add finding a safe area where your dog can “be a dog” off-leash, preferably with other dogs and people. Socializing is good for both species, and most dog trainers and owners agree that “a tired dog is a good dog.”
The research letter states that a “risk-benefit analysis with respect to dog walking as an exercise alternative is essential,” and the authors do a concise job of quantifying fracture risk and suggesting risk-reduction strategies. The list of benefits from dog walking is too long to itemize here; suffice to say that the advantages run the gamut from physical to mental to spiritual. But let’s be safe and sensible out there. We owe it to our families (dogs included, of course) and to all those overworked orthopaedic trauma surgeons to stay on the sidewalks and in the forests and fields–and out of the ER.
JBJS Developmental Editor
The recent orthopaedic literature, including a 2017 JBJS study, provides substantial evidence that oral and intravenous tranexamic acid (TXA) are equivalent in their effectiveness at reducing blood loss after total hip arthroplasty (THA)—with oral administration being less expensive and more convenient. But what are the optimal doses and timing of oral TXA in the setting of THA?
The findings of a randomized controlled trial by Wang et al. in the March 6, 2019 issue of JBJS go a long way toward answering that question. The authors randomized 200 patients undergoing primary THA to 1 of 4 groups, with all patients receiving an intraoperative topical dose of 1.0 g of TXA and a single dose of 2.0 g of TXA orally at 2 hours postoperatively. In addition,:
- Group A received 1.0 g of oral placebo at 3, 9, and 15 hours postoperatively
- Group B received 1.0 g of oral TXA at 3 hours postoperatively and 1.0 g of placebo at 9 and 15 hours postoperatively
- Group C received 1.0 g of oral TXA at 3 and 9 hours postoperatively and 1.0 g of placebo at 15 hours postoperatively
- Group D received 1.0 g of TXA at 3, 9, and 15 hours postoperatively
The mean total blood loss during hospitalization was significantly less in Groups B, C, and D (792, 631, and 553 mL, respectively) than in Group A (984 mL). Groups C and D had lower mean reductions in hemoglobin than did Groups A and B. No significant between-group differences were observed regarding 90-day thromboembolic complications (there were none) or transfusions (there was only 1, in Group A), but the authors said “this study was likely underpowered for establishing meaningful comparisons concerning [those 2] outcomes.”
Although this study documented significantly lower total blood losses in patients who were managed with multiple doses of oral TXA postoperatively, additional studies are required to determine whether the 3-dose regimen is superior to the 2-dose regimen.
OrthoBuzz occasionally receives posts from guest bloggers. In response to a recent BMJ study, the following commentary comes from Matthew R. Schmitz, MD, FAOA.
Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) syndrome continues to be a hot topic in the orthopaedic community. The first two decades of this century have seen huge increases in the number of hip arthroscopies performed in the US and UK,1,2 most of those to treat FAI. In the February 7, 2019 issue of BMJ, Palmer et al., reporting on behalf of the Femoroacetabular Impingement Trial (FAIT), published preliminary findings from a multicenter randomized controlled trial comparing arthroscopic hip surgery to activity modification and physiotherapy for symptomatic FAI.3
The trial randomized 222 patients with a clinical diagnosis of FAI into each cohort (110 in the physiotherapy group and 112 in the arthroscopy group). Follow-up assessments were performed by clinicians blinded to the treatment arm, and attempts were made to standardize both interventions. The participants will eventually be followed for 3 years, but this early report evaluated outcomes 8 months after randomization, with follow-up data available for >80% of patients in both groups.
Baseline characteristics with regard to demographics, radiographic findings, and clinical measurements were similar between the two groups. After adjusting for multiple potential confounders, the authors found that the mean Hip Outcomes Score Activities of Daily Living (HOS ADL) was 10 points higher in the arthroscopy group than in the physiotherapy group, exceeding the prespecified minimum clinically important difference (MCID) of 9 points. The MCID was reached in 51% of surgical patients compared to 32% in the therapy cohort. In addition, the patient acceptable symptomatic state (PASS)—defined as a HOS ADL ≥87 points—was achieved in 48% of surgical patients and only 19% of therapy patients. Relative to the physiotherapy group, the arthroscopic group also had better hip flexion and superior results in a variety of commonly used hip patient-reported outcomes scores.
The 8-month data from this study show that there is a real improvement in patient function and reported outcomes from arthroscopic management for FAI. It will be important, however, to follow these patients for the entire 3 years of the FAIT study to show whether these improvements persist. It should also be emphasized that only half of the patients treated with surgical management achieved MCID at the 8-month point. That finding supports what I tell patients in my young-adult hip-preservation clinics, which seems relevant as baseball season starts: There are rarely any home runs in arthroscopic hip surgery. There are mainly singles and doubles that we hope to stretch into doubles and triples. Still, it appears that even those base hits with arthroscopic surgery are better than the physiotherapy alternative—at least in the early innings of the game.
Matthew R. Schmitz, MD, FAOA is an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in adolescent sports and young adult hip preservation at the San Antonio Military Medical Center in San Antonio, TX. He is also a member of the JBJS Social Media Advisory Board.
- Maradit Kremers H, Schilz SR, Van Houten HK et al. Trends in Utilization and Outcomes of Hip Arthrocopy in the United States Between 2005 and 2013. J Arthroplasty 2017; 32:750-5.
- Palmer AJ, Malak TT, Broomfield J, et al. Past and projected temporal trends in arthroscopic hip surgery in England between 2002 and 2018. BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med 2016;2:e000082
- Palmer AJ, Gupta VA, Fernquest S, et al. Arthroscopic hip surgery compared with physiotherapy and activity modification for the treatment of symptomatic femoroacetabular impingement: multicenter randomized controlled trial. BMJ 2019; 364:l185
Up to 40% of kids who experience a slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE) in one hip develop a slip in the contralateral hip. Recent research in pediatric orthopaedics has attempted to identify risk factors for a second SCFE in patients who have had a first. A retrospective study by Maranho et al. in the February 6, 2019 issue of JBJS provides additional evidence about one particular risk factor.
The authors radiographically measured the epiphyseal tilt, epiphyseal extension ratio, alpha angle, and epiphyseal angle of the uninvolved, contralateral hip among 318 patients (mean age of 12.4 years) who presented for treatment of a unilateral SCFE between 2000 and 2017. After adjusting for triradiate cartilage status, Maranho et al. found that, over a minimum follow-up of 18 months:
- Increased posterior epiphyseal tilt was associated with an increased risk of contralateral SCFE, which corroborates recent findings. Specifically, an epiphyseal tilt of >10° corresponded to a 54% predicted probability of a contralateral slip in patients with open triradiate cartilage.
- Increased epiphyseal extension around the metaphysis in the superior plane had a protective effect against a contralateral SCFE. For each 0.01 increase in superior epiphyseal extension ratio, the odds of a contralateral slip decreased by 6%.
- The alpha angle and epiphyseal angle were not independently associated with a contralateral slip.
Clinically, the authors suggest that the tilt findings may be more useful than the extension-ratio findings, especially when it comes to the difficult decision around whether to perform prophylactic percutaneous pinning of the contralateral hip. They write that “prophylactic fixation may be discussed with the families of patients presenting with unilateral SCFE who have a tilt angle of >10°,” noting that this threshold “would result in a low proportion of patients undergoing unnecessary prophylactic pinning.” Maranho et al. are quick to add that even contralateral hips with epiphyseal tilt angles <10° are at risk of SCFE and should be closely monitored.
Trying to educate elderly patients and their family members about how to best treat a femoral neck fracture can be difficult. These patients typically have multiple—and often severe—medical comorbidities that can make even the most “simple” surgery complex and life-threatening. Making such discussions even harder is the lack of Level-I evidence related to treating these common injuries. For severely displaced fractures, the evidence supports performing either a hemi- or total hip arthroplasty on most patients. But the data is much less clear for minimally or nondisplaced fractures.
For these reasons, I was excited to read the study by Dolatowski et al. in the January 16, 2019 issue of JBJS. The authors performed a prospective, randomized controlled trial comparing internal screw fixation to hemiarthroplasty for valgus impacted or nondisplaced femoral neck fractures in >200 patients with a mean age of 83 years. They found that patients who underwent hemiarthroplasty had a significantly faster “up-and-go” test and were significantly less likely to undergo a major reoperation than those who underwent internal fixation. However, patients in the internal-fixation group were less likely to develop pulmonary complications. There were no between-group differences in overall hip function (as evaluated with the Harris hip score) or in the 24-month mortality rate.
This study lends support to what many surgeons tell elderly patients with a nondisplaced femoral neck fracture: a hemi- (or total) arthroplasty will probably provide the lowest risk of needing a repeat operation for the injury, while placing percutaneous screws may decrease the risk of cardiopulmonary complications related to the operation. While these findings may not be surprising, this study provides important Level I data that can help us educate patients and their families so that the best treatment for each individual patient can be determined.
Chad A. Krueger, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media
When Medicare’s Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR) program was implemented in 2016, the health care community—especially orthopaedic surgeons— had 2 major concerns. First, would the program actually demonstrate the ability to decrease the costs of total joint replacements while maintaining the same, or improved, outcomes? Second, would CJR promote the unintended consequence of participating hospitals and surgeons ”cherry picking” lower-risk patients and steering clear of higher-risk (and presumably higher cost) patients? Both of these questions were at the heart of the study by Barnett et al. in a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
The authors evaluated hip and knee replacements at 75 metropolitan centers that were mandated to participate in the CJR program and compared the costs, complication rates, and patient demographics to similar procedures at 121 control centers that did not participate in CJR. The authors found significantly greater decreases in institutional spending per joint-replacement episode in institutions participating in the CJR compared to those that did not. Most of these savings appeared to come from CJR-participating institutions sending fewer patients to post-acute care facilities after surgery. Furthermore, the authors did not find differences between centers participating in the CJR and control centers in terms of composite complication rate or the percentage of procedures that were performed on high-risk patients.
While this 2-year evaluation does not provide the level of detail necessary to make far-reaching conclusions, it does address two of the biggest concerns related to CJR implementation from a health-systems perspective. There may be individual CJR-participating centers that are not saving Medicare money or that are cherry picking lower-risk patients, but overall the program appears to be doing what it set out to do—successfully motivating participating hospitals and healthcare facilities to look critically at what they can do to decrease the costs of a joint-replacement episode while simultaneously maintaining a high level of patient care. The Trump administration shifted CJR to a partly voluntary model in March 2018, and I hope policymakers consider these findings if further changes to the CJR model are planned.
Chad A. Krueger, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media
Periprosthetic joint infections (PJIs) create a significant burden for patients, surgeons, and healthcare systems. That is why so much research has gone into how best to optimize certain patients preoperatively—such as those with obesity, diabetes, or kidney disease—to decrease the risk of these potentially catastrophic complications. Still, it is not always possible or feasible to optimize every “high-risk” patient who would benefit from a total hip or knee replacement, and therefore many such patients undergo surgery with an increased risk of infection. In such cases, surgeons need additional strategies to decrease PJI risk.
In the December 19, 2018 issue of JBJS, Inabathula et al. investigate whether providing high-risk total joint arthroplasty (TJA) patients with extended postoperative oral antibiotics decreased the risk of PJI within the first 90 days after surgery. In their retrospective cohort study, the authors examined >2,100 total hip and knee replacements performed at a single suburban academic hospital. The patients in 68% of these cases had at least one risk factor for infection. Among those high-risk patients, about half received 7 days of an oral postoperative antibiotic, while the others received only the standard 24 hours of postoperative intravenous (IV) antibiotics.
Relative to those who received IV antibiotics only, those who received extended oral antibiotics experienced an 81% reduction in infection for total knee arthroplasties and a 74% reduction in infection for total hip arthroplasties. I was stunned by such large reductions in infection rates obtained simply by adding an oral antibiotic twice a day for 7 days. Most arthroplasty surgeons go to great lengths to decrease the risk of joint infection by percentages much less than that.
While further investigations are needed and legitimate concerns exist regarding the propagation of antimicrobial-resistant organisms from medical antibiotic misuse, these data are very exciting. I agree with Monti Khatod, MD, who, in his commentary on this study, says that “care pathways that aim to improve modifiable risk factors should not be seen as obsolete based on the findings of this paper.” Furthermore, the study itself is at risk for treatment and selection biases that could greatly influence its outcomes. Nevertheless, getting a successful result in these patients is challenging and, if validated with further data, this research may help surgeons obtain better outcomes when treating high-risk patients in need of hip or knee replacements.
Chad A. Krueger, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media
Concerns have arisen that the implementation of value-based, alternative payment models pegged to “bundled” episodes of care and/or patient outcomes may make it harder for a subset of patients to access the care they need. Specifically, some surgeons may be apprehensive to treat patients who have substantial medical comorbidities or socioeconomic situations that increase their risk of postsurgical complications and poor outcomes, because these alternative payment models often financially penalize physicians and hospitals for the cost of suboptimal results. The study by Shau et al. in the December 5, 2018 issue of The Journal provides data that sharpens the horns of this dilemma.
The authors used the National Readmissions Database to perform a propensity-score-matched comparison between >5,300 patients with Medicaid payer status who underwent a primary total hip arthroplasty (THA) and an equal number of patients with other types of insurance who also underwent primary THA. Shau et al. found that Medicaid-covered THA patients had significantly increased overall readmission rates (28.8% vs 21%, p <0.001, relative risk=1.37), mean length of stay (4.5 vs 3.3 days, p <0.0001), and mean total cost of care ($71,110 vs $65,309, p <0.0001), relative to the other group. These results strongly suggest that Medicaid payer status is an independent factor associated with increased resource utilization after total hip arthroplasty.
These findings can be viewed from a couple of different perspectives. First, from a preventive standpoint, surgeons and healthcare systems providing THA for Medicaid patients may need to spend more time preoperatively optimizing these patients (both physically and psychosocially) to decrease their postoperative resource burden and increase the likelihood of a good clinical outcome. Second, these results are further proof that any fair and effective alternative payment model needs to take into consideration factors such as Medicaid payer status and patient comorbidities. If they do not, such models will actually throw access barriers in front of patients in this demographic because providers may feel that caring for them increases the likelihood of being penalized financially.
Both perspectives are valid, so Medicaid payer status is a crucial factor to consider as alternative payment programs move forward. Nowadays, controlling costs is an important goal of any healthcare delivery system, but it must not lead to unintended discrimination in patient access to care. As we create further alternative payment models and refine existing ones, we must be careful not to prioritize cost cutting ahead of equitable patient access.
Chad A. Krueger, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media