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Assessing Fatty Infiltration in Rotator Cuff Tears: MRI vs Ultrasound

In the setting of rotator cuff injuries, higher degrees of fatty infiltration into cuff muscles are positively correlated with higher repair failure rates and worse clinical outcomes. MRI continues to be the gold standard imaging modality for evaluating fatty infiltration of the rotator cuff, but ultrasound represents another viable modality for that assessment—at considerably lower cost. Such is the conclusion of Tenbrunsel et al. in a recent issue of JBJS Reviews.

The authors reviewed 32 studies that investigated imaging modalities used to assess fatty infiltration and fatty atrophy. They found that grading fatty infiltration using ultrasound correlated well with grading using MRI. However, the authors identified difficulties distinguishing severe from moderate fatty infiltration on ultrasound, but they added that discerning mild from moderate fatty infiltration is more important clinically. Tenbrunsel et al. also mention sonoelastography, which measures tissue elasticity and can also be used to help determine the severity of fatty atrophy of the rotator cuff.

Overall, the trade-off between MRI and ultrasound comes down to higher precision with the former and lower cost with the latter.

For more information about JBJS Reviewswatch this video featuring JBJS Editor-in-Chief Dr. Marc Swiontkowski.

What’s New in Sports Medicine 2019

Every month, JBJS publishes 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, Albert Gee, MD, a co-author of the April 17, 2019 “What’s New in Sports Medicine,” selected the five most clinically compelling findings from among the 30 noteworthy studies summarized in the article.

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Reconstruction

–Norwegian researchers randomized 120 patients to undergo either single-bundle or double-bundle ACL reconstruction and followed them for 2 years.1 They found no difference between the 2 techniques in any patient-reported outcome, knee laxity measurements, or activity levels. These results, along with the preponderance of evidence from other comparative trials over the last 5 years, strongly suggest that routine use of 2 bundles to primarily reconstruct a torn ACL adds no clinical benefit over a well-positioned single-bundle reconstruction.

Knee Cartilage Repair

–A randomized study compared long-term patient outcomes after knee cartilage repair using microfracture versus mosaicplasty.2 Included patients had 1 or 2 focal femoral lesions measuring between 2 and 6 cm2. Better outcomes after a minimum of 15 years of follow-up were found in the mosaicplasty group. Although there were only 20 patients in each arm, the Lysholm-score differences between the groups were both clinically important and statistically significant. More patients in the mosaicplasty group than in the microfracture group said they would have the surgery again, knowing their 15-year outcome.

Rotator Cuff

–UK researchers randomized 313 patients with ≥3 months of subacromial pain and an intact rotator cuff who had completed a nonoperative program of physical therapy and injection to 1 of 3 groups: arthroscopic subacromial decompression, diagnostic arthroscopy (“sham” surgery), or no intervention.3 At 6 months and 1 year, all groups demonstrated statistically significant and clinically important improvement, but patient-reported outcome scores were significantly better in both surgical groups compared with the no-treatment group. The data suggest that patients such as these improve over time, regardless of management, but that surgical decompression  may offer a slight benefit over nonoperative management because of the placebo effect.

–A randomized controlled trial investigated the effect of a formal preoperative education program (2-minute video plus handout)4 about postoperative narcotic use, side effects, dependence risk, and addiction potential among >130 patients undergoing arthroscopic rotator cuff repair surgery. The education group consumed 33% less narcotic medication at 6 weeks and 42% less at 12 weeks compared with the control group. Among the more than one-quarter of the patients who had used opioids prior to surgery, those randomized to the education group were 6.8 times more likely than controls to discontinue narcotic use during the study period.

Hip Arthroscopy

–A randomized controlled trial of >300 patients compared hip arthroscopy and “best conservative care” for treating femoroacetabular impingement (FAI).5 Only 8% of patients crossed over from conservative care to the surgical group. The mean adjusted difference in iHOT-33 scores at 1 year was 6.8, in favor of hip arthroscopy. However, adverse events were more frequent in the arthroscopy cohort, and a within-trial economic evaluation suggested that hip arthroscopy was not cost-effective compared with conservative care during the 1-year trial period.

References

  1. Aga C, Risberg MA, Fagerland MW, Johansen S, Trøan I, Heir S, Engebretsen L. No difference in the KOOS Quality of Life Subscore between anatomic double-bundle and anatomic single-bundle anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction of the knee: a prospective randomized controlled trial with 2 years’ follow-up. Am J Sports Med.2018 Aug;46(10):2341-54. Epub 2018 Jul 18.
  2. Solheim E, Hegna J, Strand T, Harlem T, Inderhaug E. Randomized study of long-term (15-17 years) outcome after microfracture versus mosaicplasty in knee articular cartilage defects. Am J Sports Med.2018 Mar;46(4):826-31. Epub 2017 Dec 18.
  3. Beard DJ, Rees JL, Cook JA, Rombach I, Cooper C, Merritt N, Shirkey BA, Donovan JL, Gwilym S, Savulescu J,Moser J, Gray A, Jepson M, Tracey I, Judge A, Wartolowska K, Carr AJ; CSAW Study Group. Arthroscopic subacromial decompression for subacromial shoulder pain (CSAW): a multicentre, pragmatic, parallel group, placebo-controlled, three-group, randomised surgical trial. Lancet. 2018 Jan 27;391(10118):329-38. Epub 2017 Nov 20.
  4. Syed UAM, Aleem AW, Wowkanech C, Weekes D, Freedman M, Tjoumakaris F, Abboud JA, Austin LS. Neer Award 2018: the effect of preoperative education on opioid consumption in patients undergoing arthroscopic rotator cuff repair: a prospective, randomized clinical trial. J Shoulder Elbow Surg.2018 Jun;27(6):962-7. Epub 2018 Mar 26.
  5. Griffin DR, Dickenson EJ, Wall PDH, Achana F, Donovan JL, Griffin J, Hobson R, Hutchinson CE, Jepson M,Parsons NR, Petrou S, Realpe A, Smith J, Foster NE; FASHIoN Study Group. Hip arthroscopy versus best conservative care for the treatment of femoroacetabular impingement syndrome (UK FASHIoN): a multicentre randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2018 Jun 2;391(10136):2225-35. Epub 2018 Jun 1.

Clavicle Fracture Research: Enough Already?

Orthopaedic surgeons and their staffs are aware of the paradigm shift that has taken place in the last 10 to 15 years regarding the treatment of clavicle fractures. Interest in the outcome differences between surgical and nonsurgical treatment has grown substantially since the 2007 Canadian Orthopaedic Trauma Society publication in JBJS showed that, relative to nonoperative treatment, plate fixation of displaced midshaft clavicle fractures resulted in improved functional outcomes and fewer malunions in active adult patients. Since that time, The Journal alone has published 14 articles related to management of clavicle fractures. In addition, the orthopaedic literature contains a number of well-conducted meta-analyses on the topic, comparing both nonoperative and surgical treatment as well as different methods of surgical fixation.

So, with all this evidence, why have we published the randomized controlled trial on this topic by King et al. in the April 3, 2019 issue of The Journal? Partly because the authors build upon our knowledge by comparing a relatively new fixation device (a flexible intramedullary locked nail) to a more standard treatment (an anatomically contoured plate). These plate and nail devices are very different from one another in terms of mechanics and surgical technique, and the flexible nail used in this study is much different than the rigid, straight nails or pins that have been used in the past.

A union rate of 100% was observed in both groups, but the authors found that the flexible nail was significantly faster in terms of operative time. (A single surgeon experienced with both devices performed all 72 surgeries.) They also found that the DASH scores between the groups were similar until the 12 month follow-up, at which point the flexible intramedullary nail group had statistically better scores. The authors concede, however, that the 12-month DASH-score difference “might not be clinically relevant.”

There is one other reason why we deemed this article important: The flexible intramedullary device used in this study is substantially more expensive than prior fixation devices that have been shown to effectively treat clavicular fractures. King et al. did not compare device costs, but whenever we study a device that adds to the total cost of care we should attempt to prove that it adds enough patient benefit to warrant the added expense. As the authors conclude, both devices evaluated in this study appear to be effective at treating displaced/shortened clavicular fractures, and there are a number of other factors that both the surgeon and patient should consider (such as surgeon skill and experience and cosmetic results) when deciding which treatment to use.

Marc Swiontkowski, MD
JBJS Editor-in-Chief

March 2019 Article Exchange with JOSPT

In 2015, JBJS launched an “article exchange” collaboration with the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy (JOSPT) to support multidisciplinary integration, continuity of care, and excellent patient outcomes in orthopaedics and sports medicine.

During the month of March 2019, JBJS and OrthoBuzz readers will have open access to the JOSPT article titled “The Impact of Decreased Scapulothoracic Upward Rotation on Subacromial Proximities.”

In this shoulder kinematics study of 40 people classified as having high or low scapulothoracic upward rotation, contact between the coracoacromial arch and rotator cuff tendon occurred in 45% of participants. The relatively low prevalence of contact suggests that subacromial rotator cuff compression may be less common than traditionally presumed.

Screw Fixation Versus Hemiarthroplasty for Nondisplaced Femoral Neck Fractures in Elderly Patients

Full Article

Background: Elderly patients with a displaced femoral neck fracture treated with hip arthroplasty may have better function than those treated with internal fixation. We hypothesized that hemiarthroplasty would be superior to screw fixation with regard to hip function, mobility, pain, quality of life, and the risk of a reoperation in elderly patients with a nondisplaced femoral neck fracture.

What We Owe our Patients—Continuous Improvement

It has been said that a surgeon’s skill and judgment account for between 80% and 90% of a patient’s outcome. (I believe this is true for both surgical and nonsurgical treatments.) Throw in a physician’s ability to listen and clearly communicate with patients, and I am sure we are approaching that 90% mark. That means that when we conduct randomized trials comparing two types of knee prostheses or fracture-fixation constructs, we are, in essence, scrutinizing only about 10% of the patient-outcome equation. 

So how do we best evaluate the 90% of the outcome equation that is physician-dependent? With the advent of “bundled” episodes of care, the orthopaedic community has emphasized the need for risk-adjustment in evaluating surgeon performance. Clearly, there are certain patients who are at higher risk for worse outcomes than others, such as those with diabetes, nicotine abuse, advanced age, and less social support.

In the December 19. 2018 issue of The Journal, Thigpen et al. report on patient outcomes 6 months after arthroscopic rotator cuff repair in 995 patients treated by 34 surgeons. The authors evaluated patient-reported outcomes from all surgeons using both unadjusted and adjusted ASES change scores. The adjusted scores took into account about a dozen baseline patient characteristics, including symptom severity, functional and mental scores, medical comorbidities, and Workers’ Compensation status. Relative to performance rankings based on unadjusted data, risk adjustment significantly altered the rankings for 91% of the surgeons.  According to the authors, these findings “underpin the importance of risk-adjustment approaches to accurately report surgeon performance.”

But what is of even greater interest to me is that risk adjustment led to positive increases in patient outcomes for some surgeons, while decreasing outcomes for other surgeons. Some of these outcome differences likely reflect each surgeon’s patient-selection biases, but in the words of the authors, the numbers strongly suggest “that there is a meaningful, distinguishable difference in patient outcomes between surgeons.”

What should we do with this data? In my opinion, surgeons in the lower 80%  of the list, at least, ought to be engaging with the surgeons who demonstrated the highest adjusted performance scores to understand what is helping them obtain outcomes that are superior to everyone else’s. We owe it to our patients to understand what our personal outcomes are for at least the most common conditions we treat. I believe it borders on unethical behavior to quote patients outcome data of a procedure from the peer-reviewed literature when we have no idea how our personal results compare. Orthopaedic surgeons need to be more active in lobbying our groups and health systems to support best practices for clinical outcome data collection and reporting so we can, in turn, improve our care by adopting the best practices of the surgeons with the best outcomes.

Marc Swiontkowski, MD
JBJS Editor-in-Chief

Treating Displaced AC Joint Dislocations: Patient Expectations Matter

Often in life, when there are many potential solutions for a single problem, none of them is found to be universally better than the others. That certainly seems to be the case when it comes to treating type III- and -IV acromioclavicular (AC) joint dislocations. Multiple studies have tried to clarify whether nonoperative or operative management is superior in this relatively common injury, but it is becoming increasingly clear that there is no single “right” answer. Many patients do fine with nonoperative treatment; others report being highly satisfied with an operation.

In the November 21, 2018 issue of The Journal, Murray et al. try to provide further guidance for treating these injuries. They performed a prospective, randomized controlled trial that compared nonoperative treatment with open reduction and tunneled suspensory device fixation among 60 patients with a type-III or type-IV AC joint dislocation. The authors used DASH, OSS, and SF-12 scores to quantify functional differences between the groups at 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year post-injury. They found that, while the operative group showed improved radiographic alignment of the AC joint compared to the nonoperative group, there were no differences in functional outcomes between the two groups at any time beyond the 6-week mark (at which point the nonoperative group had better outcomes).

Notably, 5 of the 31 patients allocated to nonoperative treatment ended up requesting surgical treatment for the injury because of persistent discomfort (4 patients) or cosmesis (1 patient). Also, not surprisingly, the mean economic expenditure in the fixation group was significantly greater than that in the nonoperative group.

Whether to provide operative or nonoperative treatment for type-III and -IV acromioclavicular joint dislocations is not an easy decision, and it entails multiple factors. While this study evaluates only one modern surgical technique for treating this injury, the data is valuable nonetheless for informing a shared decision-making process to help patients choose the most appropriate treatment for them. The good news is that, whether managed operatively or not, patients tend to improve significantly after these injuries, and after 1 year end up with a shoulder that functions well. The authors conclude that “the routine use of [this surgical procedure] for displaced AC joint injuries is not justified,” and that “treatment should be individualized on the basis of [patient] age, activity level, and expectations.”

Chad A. Krueger, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media

JBJS 100: Femoral Fractures, Shoulder Dislocations

JBJS 100Under 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 full-text 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:

Closed Intramedullary Nailing of Femoral Fractures
RA Winquist, ST Hansen Jr, DK Clawson: JBJS, 1984 January; 66 (4): 529
This paper, which carefully explains how IM nailing procedures were refined as the authors’ experience grew from 1968 to 1979, ushered in the standard of care that exists today and spelled the end of traction treatment and plate fixation. It remains one of the most-cited articles in the history of musculoskeletal trauma literature.

Nonoperative Treatment of Primary Anterior Shoulder Dislocation in Patients 40 Years of Age and Younger
L Hovelius et al: JBJS, 2008 May; 90 (5): 945
After 25 years of follow-up, half of >200 primary shoulder dislocations in Swedish patients aged 12 to 25 that had been treated nonoperatively had not recurred or had become stable over time. Based on these findings, the authors opine that “routine, immediate surgery for the treatment of all first-time dislocations in patients 25 years of age or younger will result in a rate of unnecessary operations of at least 30%.”

What’s New in Shoulder and Elbow Surgery 2018

Shoulder & elbowEvery 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, Robert Tashjian, MD, co-author of the October 17, 2018 Specialty Update on shoulder and elbow surgery, selected the most clinically compelling findings from among the 36 studies summarized in the Specialty Update.

Progression of Primary Osteoarthritis
–A study evaluating the relationship between glenoid erosion patterns and rotator cuff muscle fatty infiltration found that fatty infiltration was associated with B3 glenoids, increased pathologic glenoid retroversion, and increased joint-line medialization. The authors recommend close observation of patients with B-type glenoids, as the progression of glenoid erosion is more likely in B-type than A-type glenoids.

Perioperative Pain Management
–In a randomized controlled trial of perioperative pain management in patients undergoing primary shoulder arthroplasty, narcotic consumption during the first 24 postoperative hours was similar between a group that received interscalene brachial plexus blockade and a group that received intraoperative soft-tissue infiltration of liposomal bupivacaine. The interscalene group had lower VAS pain scores at 0 and 8 hours postoperatively; both groups had similar VAS pain scores at 16 hours; and the soft-tissue infiltration group had lower pain scores at 24 hours postoperatively.

Rotator Cuff
–In a reevaluation of patients with nonoperatively treated chronic, symptomatic full-thickness rotator cuff tears that had become asymptomatic at 3 months, researchers found that at a minimum of 5 years, 75% of the patients remained asymptomatic.1 The Constant scores in the group that remained asymptomatic were equivalent at 5 years to those who initially underwent surgical repair. While these findings suggest that nonoperative treatment can yield clinical success at 5 years, the authors caution that “individuals with substantial tear progression or the development of atrophy will likely have a worse clinical result.”

–A recent study of the progression of fatty muscle degeneration in asymptomatic shoulders with degenerative full-thickness rotator cuff tears found that larger tears at baseline had greater fatty degeneration, and that tears with fatty degeneration were more likely to enlarge over time. Median time from tear enlargement to fatty degeneration was 1 year. Because the rapid progression of muscle degeneration seems to occur with increasing tear size, such patients should be closely monitored if treated nonoperatively.

Shoulder Instability in Athletes
–An evaluation of outcomes among 73 athletes who had undergone Latarjet procedures found that, after a mean follow-up of 52 months, ASES scores averaged 93. However, only 49% of the athletes returned to their preoperative sport level; 14% decreased their activity level in the same sport; and 12% changed sports altogether. While the Latarjet can help stabilize shoulders in athletes, the likelihood is high that the athlete won’t return to the same level in the same sport after the procedure.

Reference

  1. Boorman RS, More KD, Hollinshead RM, Wiley JP, Mohtadi NG, Lo IKY, Brett KR. What happens to patients when we do not repair their cuff tears? Five-year rotator cuff quality-of-life index outcomes following nonoperative treatment of patients with full-thickness rotator cuff tears. J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2018 Mar;27(3):444-8.

JBJS 100: Harris Hip Score, Clavicle Fractures

JBJS 100Under 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 full-text 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:

Traumatic Arthritis of the Hip after Dislocation and Acetabular Fractures—Treatment by Mold Arthroplasty: An End-Result Study Using a New Method of Result Evaluation
W H Harris: JBJS, 1969 June; 51 (4): 737
The most lasting legacy from this classic 1969 article from William Harris is the author’s proposed hip score. A “single, reliable figure” designed to be equally applicable to different hip problems and different treatments, the Harris Hip Score is still used worldwide today in routine evaluations before and after hip arthroplasty. Not surprisingly, this article remains the most frequently cited paper in the hip arthroplasty literature.

Nonoperative Treatment Compared with Plate Fixation of Displaced Midshaft Clavicular Fractures
Canadian Orthopaedic Trauma Society: JBJS, 2007 January; 89 (1): 1
Amid the ongoing debate about whether to operate on which type of clavicle fractures, this multicenter, randomized clinical trial stands out for its rigorous design and focus on patient-oriented outcomes. Local irritation and unsightly prominence from hardware notwithstanding, these findings support primary plate fixation of completely displaced midshaft clavicle fractures in active adult patients.