Every month, JBJS publishes a review of the most pertinent and impactful studies published in the orthopaedic literature during the previous year in 14 specialty areas. Click here for a collection of all such OrthoBuzz Guest Editorial summaries.
This month, co-author Lindsay M. Andras, MD summarizes the 5 most compelling findings from the >80 studies highlighted in the most recent “What’s New in Pediatric Orthopaedics.”
Anterior Vertebral Body Tethering vs Spinal Fusion
–Motion-sparing approaches to scoliosis treatment are attracting increased interest. An informative retrospective study compared 2 to 5-year outcomes of anterior vertebral body tethering (AVBT, 23 patients) and posterior spinal fusion (26 patients) in the treatment of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Curve correction was significantly better in the posterior fusion group (mean curve magnitude of 16° vs 33° in the AVBT group). Posterior fusion also demonstrated a revision rate of 0%, while a revision rate of 39% was found for AVBT (9 of 23), with 12 patients (52%) showing evidence of tether breakage.
Antibiotic Regimens for Osteoarticular Infection
–While osteomyelitis is often treated with a 4 to 6-week course of intravenous (IV) antibiotics, intriguing results were reported in a study examining the data of 74 patients before and after the initiation of early transition to oral antibiotics for osteoarticular infection1. In the early transition group, which received IV antibiotics for a median of 7 days, no return ED visits or readmissions were reported. Of note, this approach also appeared to stave off complications related to the peripherally inserted central catheters, which necessitated a return to the ED for 16% of the patients who received the longer course of IV antibiotics.
Developmental Dysplasia of the Hips
–What is the long-term likelihood of total hip arthroplasty (THA) when closed reduction or open reduction and Salter innominate osteotomy is used for the treatment of developmental dysplasia of the hips (DDH) in children after walking age? A comparative analysis of hip survival at 45 years showed that both open and closed reduction “provided substantial benefit relative to the natural history of DDH,” but THA is the expected outcome in middle adulthood, particularly for bilateral hips managed with closed reduction after the age of 18 months.
–A case-series report noted “predictable radiographic healing and marked clinical improvement” after open reduction and surgical fixation (ORIF) of symptomatic osteochondritis dissecans lesions seen as sequelae to Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease2. Mean follow-up was 4.6 years.
Pediatric Syndactyly Reconstruction
–Synthetic dermal substitute shows merit as an alternative to skin grafting in syndactyly reconstruction, as found in a recent study3. Of 21 webs, normal vascularity was noted in 20, normal pigmentation in 17, normal skin pliability in 13, and flat scar height in 15, with no complications observed. Of note, a small sheet of synthetic dermal substitute costs approximately $350.
- Islam S, Biary N, Wrotniak B. Favorable outcomes with early transition to oral antibiotics for pediatric osteoarticular infections. Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2019 Jun;58(6):696-9. Epub 2019 Feb 8.
- Lamplot JD, Schoenecker PL, Pascual-Garrido C, Nepple JJ, Clohisy JC. Open reduction and internal fixation for the treatment of symptomatic osteochondritis dissecans of the femoral head in patients with sequelae of Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease. J Pediatr Orthop. 2020 Mar;40(3):120-8.
- Wall LB, Velicki K, Roberts S, Goldfarb CA. Outcomes of pediatric syndactyly repair using synthetic dermal substitute. J Hand Surg Am. 2020 Aug;45(8):773.e1-6. Epub 2020 Feb 13.
Many orthopaedic surgeons who take emergency-department or trauma call are confronted with a pediatric patient presenting with a fracture. However, very few of those orthopaedists are pediatric subspecialists. In fact, Geisinger researchers recently reported that the median number of pediatric orthopaedists per state in the US is only 23 (range 0 to 134).
To address these demographic realities, JBJS Essential Surgical Techniques has launched a video-based, point-of-care resource to help any orthopaedic surgeon manage the most common pediatric fractures with the highest level of quality, helping ensure excellent outcomes for young patients and their parents. Most of the authors of these pediatric-focused procedural videos are members of CORTICES—a collaboration of pediatric orthopedic surgeons dedicated to improving the management of emergent orthopedic conditions through education, research, and development of optimal care guidelines.
Here are links to the 5 already-published video articles in this series:
- Open Reduction and Suture Fixation of Acute Sternoclavicular Fracture-Dislocations in Children
- Elastic Stable Intramedullary Nailing of Pediatric Tibial Fractures
- Closed Reduction of Pediatric Distal Radial Fractures and Epiphyseal Separations
- Open Reduction and Pin Fixation of Pediatric Lateral Humeral Condylar Fractures
- Elastic Intramedullary Nailing of Pediatric Both-Bone Forearm Fractures
Upcoming videos in this special series will cover the following 5 topics:
- Screw Fixation of Pediatric Proximal Tibial Tubercle Fractures
- Reduction and Internal Screw Fixation of Transitional Ankle Fractures
- Flexible Intramedullary Nailing of Pediatric Femur Fractures
- Intramedullary Fixation of the Ulna for Monteggia Fracture Management
- Open Reduction and Internal Fixation of Pediatric Medial Epicondyle Humerus Fractures
JBJS Essential Surgical Techniques is the premier online journal describing how to perform orthopaedic surgical procedures, verified by evidence-based outcomes, vetted by peer review, and utilizing video to optimize the educational experience, thereby enhancing patient care.
JBJS Editor-in-Chief Dr. Marc Swiontkowski brought to OrthoBuzz’s attention a recent “Family Partnerships” essay published in Pediatrics. The 4 “speakers” in the essay chronicle the suffering and pain of Lindsay Ellingworth, who was born with a congenital lower-limb deficiency. Lindsay’s young parents opted for limb lengthening over amputation plus a prosthesis after several orthopaedic consultations and an agonizing, confusing decision-making process.
Orthopaedic surgeon Dr. David Hootnick entered the picture about 10 years ago, when he first saw Lindsay, who was by then a young nursing student with ongoing problems associated with the index procedure—including scoliosis and chronic neck and back pain. The extent of the original deformity (30% femur shortening at birth) made Lindsay a “nonideal candidate for lengthening,” says Dr. Hootnick, but he adds that “Lindsay had a normal-appearing foot, making it all the more understandable that her parents balked at removing an apparently healthy part of their beloved child.”
Lindsay describes her limb-lengthening and years of treatments for complications as “a living nightmare.” Now an adult, she has concluded that “the doctors put a pretty bow on limb lengthening.” Pediatrician and bioethicist Dr. Amy Caruso Brown acknowledges in the essay the untenable bind Lindsay’s parents found themselves in when having to make a decision before their child was old enough to express preferences. “It is difficult to accept that a procedure that sounds as drastic and anachronistic as amputation might have fewer complications than the seemingly more sophisticated alternative,” Dr. Brown said.
According to Lindsay’s mother Rene Mauchin, “Although she has endured so much, Lindsay still laughs and celebrates life.” When asked for a takeaway that might help other families in similar situations, Ms. Mauchin said, “You have a right to know everything the doctors know…Don’t hesitate to see several doctors, and ask for evidence to back up their recommendations.”
True innovation—improvement way beyond the incremental—is rare in orthopaedics, whether it’s pre- and postoperative management, surgical technique, or prosthetic design. Innovation is even rarer, understandably, in addressing conditions that themselves are rare. Rarer still are innovations in treating pediatric conditions because of the many different congenital etiologies that don’t present in sufficient numbers to meaningfully study interventions.
Congenital pseudarthrosis of the tibia is one such rare pediatric condition, and it is one of the most challenging problems facing pediatric orthopaedic surgeons. In its pre-fracture state, this condition is called congenital tibial dysplasia or anterolateral bowing of the tibia. The goal of treatment at this stage is preventing fracture in the dysplastic, bowed area, because post-fracture union is difficult to achieve and maintain—and because chronic nonunion puts patients at risk for long-term pain, deformity, and disability.
In the December 2, 2020 issue of The Journal, Laine et al. present results of a simple outpatient surgical solution to this problem in 10 pediatric patients who were followed for an average of 5 years. Using a limited-exposure, plate-and-screw approach to control physeal growth, these authors produced correction in tibial alignment in all 10 patients. Most importantly, no patient developed a tibial fracture or pseudarthrosis after the guided-growth procedure, which also improved radiographic appearance of dysplastic bone and preserved leg length. Although 6 of the 10 patients required a plate exchange, the authors’ institution now offers this procedure as first-line treatment to all patients presenting with pre-fracture congenital tibial dysplasia.
Congenital bowing of the tibia is a condition that will probably never be subject to a controlled clinical trial due to the (fortunately) low number of patients affected. However, carefully conducted small cohort studies such as this can reveal true innovation that advances care for small but very vulnerable populations.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
OrthoBuzz occasionally receives posts from guest bloggers. This guest post comes from Impact Science, in response to a recent article in JBJS.
Pain management is an important aspect of postoperative care after posterior spinal fusion for the treatment of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS). Opioid medications, while highly effective and commonly used for postoperative analgesia, have many well-documented adverse effects. Several recent studies have suggested that dexamethasone, a glucocorticoid, is an effective adjunct for postoperative pain management after many adult orthopaedic procedures, but its use after AIS surgery has not been well studied.
Beginning in 2017, doctors at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta added dexamethasone to their postoperative pain control pathway for adolescent spinal-fusion patients. In the October 21, 2020 issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, Fletcher et al. report findings from a cohort study that investigated the postoperative outcomes of 113 patients (median age of 14 years) who underwent posterior spinal fusion between 2015 and 2018. The main outcome of interest—opioid consumption while hospitalized—was determined by converting all postoperative opioids given into morphine milligram equivalents (MME).
Because dexamethasone entered their institution’s standardized pathway for this operation in 2017, it was easy for the authors to divide these patients into two groups; 65 of the study patients did not receive postoperative steroids, while 48 patients were managed with 3 doses of steroids postoperatively. Relative to the former group, the latter group showed a 39.6% decrease in total MME used and a 29.5% decrease in weight-based MME. Patients who received postoperative dexamethasone were also more likely to walk at the time of initial physical therapy evaluation. Notably, the authors found no differences between the groups with regard to wound dihescence or 90-day infection rates—2 complications that have been associated with chronic use of perioperative steroids.
In commenting on these findings, Amy L. McIntosh, MD from Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children writes that she was so impressed that she plans “on adding dexamethasone to our institution’s standardized AIS care pathway.”
Impact Science is a team of highly specialized subject-area experts (Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Medicine & Humanities), who collaborate with authors, societies, libraries, universities, and various other stakeholders for services to enhance research impact. Through research engagement and science communication, Impact Science aims at democratizing science by making research-backed content accessible to the world.
Identifying the pathogenic microorganism in childhood osteomyelitis and septic arthritis is essential to tailoring appropriate treatment. But the traditional methods of swab and tissue culturing have subpar success rates in pediatric patients, identifying the pathogen in only 40% to 60% of cases. In the October 21, 2020 edition of The Journal, Shin et al. report their findings comparing microbial identification rates using pediatric blood culture bottles (BCBs), typical culture swabs, and tissue specimens.
Over 3 years, the authors prospectively collected intraoperative specimens from 40 pediatric patients (mean age of 7.2 years) who underwent surgery for a presumed osteoarticular infection. Half of the patients had received oral or intravenous antibiotics in the 3 weeks prior to surgery, while the other half had received intravenous cefazolin after culture specimens were obtained in the operating room. Intraoperative culture specimens were obtained in 3 different manners for all patients:
- Four 21-gauge needles were dipped into the infected fluid and were used to inoculate 4 pediatric BCBs – 2 aerobic and 2 nonaerobic.
- Two swabs were placed in direct contact with the infected tissue.
- Two solid tissue samples were collected and placed in 2 sterile containers.
In these 40 cases, the microbial identification rate of the BCB method was 68%, compared to 45% with the swab method and 38% with the tissue method—all statistically significant differences. In 9 patients (23%), the pathogen was only identified with the BCB method. No samples showed positive culture growth with the other 2 methods if the BCB culture was negative. Interestingly, in a subgroup analysis of 15 patients with methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA), the authors found no difference in detection rates between the 3 methods, but in cases involving organisms other than MSSA, detection with BCBs was significantly higher than with both swab and tissue cultures.
The apparent superiority of BCBs to detect microbial organisms could be due to the characteristics of pediatric BCBs, which enhance microorganism growth in a small amount of liquid. Although there are some concerns that this enhanced BCB detection could lead to increased rates of false-positives from contaminants, I think the risk of false positives is a viable tradeoff if we can more quickly and accurately identify pathogens in pediatric infections. As Shin et al. emphasize, “Sequelae resulting from these infections are particularly unfortunate for pediatric patients.”
Matthew R. Schmitz, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media
There has been a huge worldwide effort over the last 2-plus decades to establish arthroplasty registries. Among the many advantages of such registries, advocates emphasize the potential detection of early failures associated with new implant designs and biomaterials. The large number of patients enrolled in most registries and the methodical capturing of data yield substantial statistical and research benefits.
Based on the successes of arthroplasty registries, parallel registries have been established for sports medicine (especially for shoulder and knee conditions and treatments), fractures, musculoskeletal tumors, and others. Although the focus has been on enrolling large numbers of patients with relatively common disorders or procedures, there have been less well-publicized efforts to create smaller registries of rarer diseases.
In the October 21, 2020 issue of The Journal, Forman et al. use the 8-site Congenital Upper Limb Differences (CoULD) registry to report on associations between congenital deficiency of the radial aspect of the forearm in 259 patients (383 involved limbs) and thumb hypoplasia. Two findings stood out to me:
- The severity of radial deficiency was correlated with the severity of thumb deficiency.
- Compared with subjects who had no diagnosed syndromes, patients with concomitant syndromes (such as VACTERL and Holt-Oram) were twice as likely to have bilateral deficiency and 2.5 times as likely to have radial and thumb deficiencies as opposed to thumb deficiency alone.
In addition to reinforcing findings from previous single-institution studies, these data from Forman et al. will help surgeons counsel parents, determine treatment approaches, and establish frameworks for following patient outcomes after both surgical and nonsurgical treatment. It is my hope that other clinician-researchers with interest in understanding and managing rare conditions will establish similar registries to benefit these smaller but no-less-important groups of patients and families.
Click here to read the JBJS Clinical Summary on Congenital Hand Differences.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
In the October 7, 2020 issue of The Journal, Du et al. report on a multicenter database-derived cohort of 167 patients with early-onset scoliosis treated with traditional growing rods and followed for ≥2 years after “final” fusion. These researchers report that 19% of those patients required a repeat surgery following fusion, most commonly for surgical-site infection and anchor-site failure. Multivariate analysis of risk factors for reoperation following final fusion revealed the following:
- Curve progression requiring revision surgery during the spine-lengthening process
- The number of levels spanned with the growing rods
- The duration of treatment
Du et al. report these results without spin in a way that is most useful for surgeons who are considering using these implants in their armamentarium. This is the way all new technology, especially complex advances in surgical care, should be reported.
Orthopaedic implants and instruments continue to evolve, almost always toward more sophisticated digital technology, complex engineering, and more numerous moving parts. The advent of magnetic growing rods for treating early-onset scoliosis is just one example. Often such advances are reported on by surgeons who are conflicted by personal and financial interests in the technology. This leads to all manner of potential bias–indication bias, reporting bias, selection bias, and detection bias to name just a few. Readers should evaluate this type of data with a high degree of suspicion.
What we need throughout orthopaedics are more multicenter, multisurgeon, “deconflicted” cohort studies and clinical trials. When such rigorous studies are conducted to investigate “high-tech” growing rods in patients with early-onset scoliosis, I will not be surprised if researchers find the same risk factors for reoperation after fusion that Du et al. found.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
Pes planovalgus (flatfoot) is a common condition seen in the pediatric orthopaedic clinic. We who help manage this condition differentiate it from adult acquired flatfoot deformity, primarily in that most child and adolescent patients remain asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic and rarely require surgical intervention. However, it would be nice to have data to share with young patients and their parents regarding factors associated with flatfoot symptoms.
Min et al. provide some of that data in the September 2, 2020 issue of The Journal. The authors retrospectively evaluated factors affecting the symptoms of idiopathic pes planovalgus among 123 patients (mean age of 10.1 ± 3.2 years) using the 4-domain Oxford Ankle Foot Questionnaire (OxAFQ) administered to patients and their parents. They compared questionnaire scores to 3 radiographic measurements─anteroposterior (AP) talo-first metatarsal angle, lateral talo-first metatarsal angle, and hallux valgus angles. They also analyzed the scores in relation to patient age and sex.
Min et al. found that the physical domain score for the child-reported OxAFQ decreased by 0.74 with each 1° increase in the AP talo-first metatarsal angle. Because that angle is a surrogate for forefoot abduction, this finding portends worse patient-reported outcomes in kids with greater severity of that component of flatfoot. Female sex was also associated with lower physical domain scores, with the authors postulating that this might be attributable to culturally influenced sex differences.
In addition, age was a significant factor in 3 domains of the OxAFQ. Compared with scores from younger kids, children ≥10 years old and their parents reported statistically worse outcomes with regard to school/play, emotional well-being, and footwear. In other words, at or beyond the age of 10, flatfoot deformity seems to significantly affect the patient’s choice of footwear, interferes with the ability to participate in sports and play, and may cause personal distress, such as that which comes from being teased about foot appearance.
Orthopaedists can help manage most cases of pediatric flatfoot with sound footwear recommendations and reassurance. But it appears that in the setting of increased forefoot abduction, female sex, and symptoms that persist past the age of 10 years, further investigation may be warranted. Although this study has weaknesses, it shows that there may be detriments─both physical and emotional─associated with pes planovalgus in pediatric patients that should not be ignored.
Matthew R. Schmitz, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media
Most orthopaedic spine surgeons and neurosurgeons have come to understand that syringomyelia plays a role in some cases of scoliosis, and that the spinal-cord condition may increase the risk of cord injury during deformity-correction surgery. In the August 19, 2020 issue of JBJS, Tan et al. investigate whether radiographic and clinical outcomes after 1-stage posterior spinal fusion to correct scoliosis secondary to syringomyelia differ between patients with syringomyelia related to Chiairi-I malformation (CIM) and those with idiopathic syringomyelia.
The short answer is “no.” Although researchers found larger preoperative syringeal parameters in the CIM group, up through 2 years after scoliosis-correction surgery, they detected no significant between-group differences in coronal/sagittal parameters or in scores from the 5 domains of the Scoliosis Research Society-22 questionnaire. Moreover, the preoperative neurological status and intraoperative neuromonitoring signals were similar in both groups.
In commenting on these findings, Kent A. Reinker, MD, points out that patients who had received preoperative neurological treatment for the syrinx were excluded from the study, so “the results … do not necessarily apply to patients who have had neurological intervention prior to scoliosis surgery.” He strongly recommends that all patients with a syrinx be referred to a neurosurgeon for evaluation prior to any scoliosis surgery, concluding that “a working partnership between orthopaedic surgeons and their neurological colleagues is important when assessing these patients.”