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Cord Compression Reflects Neurological Outcomes after Thoracolumbar Injuries

cord compression for OBuzzThe association between spinal cord compression and functional deficits following cervical spine trauma has been well studied using both CT and MRI. However, until now, there was little data evaluating whether that same association is true for thoracic spine injuries. In the February 21, 2018 edition of The Journal, Skeers et al. identified the same correlations between canal compromise, cord compression, and functional outcome in the T1 to L1 region.

Using retrospective data, the authors showed that the severity of neurologic deficits was associated with the amount of maximal cord compression, as measured with advanced imaging. More specifically, their univariate analysis showed that cord compression >40% was associated with a tenfold greater likelihood of complete spinal cord injury compared to cord compression <40%. This study also found that MRI measures osseous canal compromise more accurately than CT, probably because it more clearly visualizes soft tissue changes related to the posterior longitudinal ligament, ligamentum flavum, and facet capsule.

A major issue with this study (and with almost all studies that evaluate spine trauma) is that these advanced imaging techniques are temporally static; even when they’re obtained relatively soon after injury, they cannot capture the position of vertebral body fragments and posterior structure deformities that existed upon impact. This shortcoming is probably more relevant for younger patients, who are more likely to experience higher-velocity trauma.

The population in the Skeers et al. study is skewed a bit toward older patients (mean age 34.8) with relatively severe spinal injuries (mean TLICS of 7.8 and mean cord compression of 40%). These factors may highlight the roles that lower bone density and decreased soft tissue elasticity play in the setting of high-energy spine trauma.

Although the data reflect some variability, this study should help spine surgeons counsel patients and their families following these tragic injuries. The more severe the initial cord compression in the thoracic spine, the more likely there is to be severe neurologic injury without improvement.

Marc Swiontkowski, MD
JBJS Editor-in-Chief

February 2018 Article Exchange with JOSPT

JOSPT_Article_Exchange_LogoIn 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 February 2018, JBJS and OrthoBuzz readers will have open access to the JOSPT article titled “The Influence of Patient Choice of First Provider on Costs and Outcomes: Analysis From a Physical Therapy Patient Registry.”

The authors of this economic and decision analysis tackle a controversial topic: whether giving patients with neck and back pain direct access to physical therapy, without a medical referral, leads to lower costs of care. They also compare clinical outcomes in the medical-referral and direct-access groups.

JBJS 100: Cuff Tear Arthropathy and Cervical Spine Disorders

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 constituted 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:

Cuff Tear Arthropathy
Neer CS 2nd, Craig EV, Fukuda: JBJS, 1983 Dec; 65 (9): 1232
These authors reported on what was then a relatively uncommon degenerative condition of the shoulder. Today, rotator cuff-deficient shoulders are much more common and can be better treated due to advances in our understanding of the pathophysiology and biomechanics of the condition.

The Treatment of Certain Cervical-spine Disorders by Anterior Removal of the Intervertebral Disc and Interbody Fusion
Smith GW, Robinson RA: JBJS, 1958 June; 40 (3): 607
Dr. Robinson’s technique has the support of biomechanical principles, which makes this particular approach and bone-graft fusion construct inherently stable. The versatile approach is utilized for all sorts of anterior procedures, including removal of intervertebral discs, arthrodesis, and vertebrectomy.

JBJS 100: Knee Instability and Scoliosis

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 constituted 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:

Rotatory Instability of the Knee
Donald B. Slocum, Robert L. Larson: JBJS, 1968 Mar; 50 (2): 211
The authors demonstrated the importance of performing the anterior drawer test with the foot held in 15° of external rotation. The physical examination described in this article has since been complemented by numerous other tests.

Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis: A New Classification to Determine Extent of Spinal Arthrodesis
Lenke, Lawrence G. MD; Betz, Randal R. MD; Harms, Jürgen MD; Bridwell, Keith H. MD; Clements, David H. MD; Lowe, Thomas G. MD; Blanke, Kathy RN: JBJS, 2001 Aug;  83 (8): 1169
This new-at-the-time 2-dimensional classification system had three components: curve type, a lumbar spine modifier, and a sagittal thoracic modifier. It was much more reliable than previous systems in helping surgeons determine the vertebrae to be included in arthrodesis.

In Spinal-Metastasis Surgery, High-Volume Yields Better Outcomes

Spinal Metastasis for OBuzzIn orthopaedics, the connection between a hospital/surgeon performing a surgical procedure many times and improved outcomes has been demonstrated compellingly with total joint replacement. In the October 18, 2017 edition of JBJS, Schoenfeld et al. show that this same volume-outcome relationship holds true in the surgical treatment of spinal metastases.

The study analyzed 3,135 patients treated by 1,488 surgeons at 162 hospitals throughout Florida. Using sophisticated statistics, the authors defined high-volume surgeons as those who had performed ≥49 procedures per year and high-volume hospitals as those at which ≥167 procedures per year had been performed.

Among the entire cohort, the 90-day complication rate was 26% and the readmission rate was 43%. (Rates that high are not unexpected with such risky spinal surgeries.) Here are the findings according to surgeon volume:

  • 21% complication rate for patients treated by high-volume surgeons
  • 30% complication rate for patients treated by low-volume surgeons
  • 37% readmission rate for patients treated by high-volume surgeons
  • 47% readmission rate for patients treated by low-volume surgeons

In other words, the relative odds of complications and readmissions following operations performed by low-volume surgeons were approximately 40% higher than those following operations done by high-volume surgeons. A similar percentage difference was found between the odds at low- and high-volume hospitals. In a secondary analysis, the authors found that African Americans and Hispanics were significantly less likely than white patients to receive care from a high-volume surgeon or at a high-volume hospital.

Schoenfeld et al. state that the ideal care for patients facing surgery for spinal metastases comes from a team of experienced surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, nurses, and support staff. They conclude that their findings “speak to the need for regionalization of subspecialty spinal oncology care as a means to optimize treatment for this cohort of patients.”

Aggressive Treatment Improves QOL in Many Cases of Spinal Metastases

swiontkowski marc colorA significant portion of metastatic disease comes with no clear identification of a primary tumor; this is unfortunately the case with many spinal metastases. In the October 4, 2017 issue of The Journal, Ma et al. evaluate the survival and patient-reported quality-of-life (QOL) outcomes for patients with spinal metastases from cancer of unknown primary origin.

Their prospective longitudinal study confirms that a more aggressive strategy that combines surgery and radiation therapy results in better QOL (as measured with the four-domain FACT-G instrument) than radiation alone. There was no significant difference in survival time between the two groups. In a subgroup analysis of patients receiving surgery, those who underwent circumferential decompression had significantly better functional and physical well-being and higher total QOL scores than those who underwent decompressive laminectomy.

These findings emphasize the critical role of shared decision making in such difficult situations. A dire diagnosis with poor statistical chances of long-term survival does not mean that patients should not be informed of treatment options and have the opportunity to opt for an aggressive surgical approach, especially if that decision is likely to result in improved QOL. Let us endeavor to compassionately provide patients with the facts, as we understand them, and let them select from among the medical and surgical options that are at their disposal. More often than not, in this sad scenario, it seems aggressive is better in terms of quality of life.

September 2017 Article Exchange with JOSPT

JOSPT_Article_Exchange_LogoIn 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 September 2017, JBJS and OrthoBuzz readers will have open access to the JOSPT article titled “Assessment of Psychometric Properties of Various Balance Assessment Tools in Persons With Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy.

This cross-sectional study concluded that a brief version of the Balance Evaluation Systems Test (BESTest) is the most-preferred tool for assessing balance among patients with cervical spondylotic myelopathy.

Longer Surgeries, Lengths of Stay Associated with More Adverse Events

Trauma Image for OBuzzThe phrase “adverse event” has been defined variably in the orthopaedic literature, which is one reason identifying the factors associated with such events can be tricky. In the August 16, 2017 edition of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, Millstone et al. go a long way toward pinpointing modifiable factors that boost the risk of adverse events.

Using an institution-wide adverse-event reporting system called OrthoSAVES, the authors analyzed adverse events among 2,146 patients who underwent one of three elective orthopaedic procedures: knee replacement, hip replacement, or spinal fusion. They found an overall adverse event rate of 27%, broken down by surgical site as follows:

  • 29% for spine
  • 27% for knee
  • 25% for hip

The most common adverse events had a low severity grade (1 or 2); the authors suggest that including events typically not viewed as severe (such as urinary retention) is one reason the overall adverse event rate in this study was higher than most previously reported.

The unique finding from this study was that two modifiable factors—length of stay and increasing operative duration—were independently associated with a greater risk of an adverse event. More specifically, the authors found that, regardless of surgical site, each additional 30 minutes of surgery increased the adjusted odds for an adverse event by 13%.

The authors were quick to point out that their findings should not be interpreted as an admonition for surgeons to hurry up. “While operative duration may be a modifiable factor, operating more quickly for spinal or any other procedures may, itself, lead to increased complications,” they wrote. Rather, Millstone et al. suggest that the multiple factors comprising “procedural efficiency” during a surgical hospitalization warrant further investigation.

What’s New in Musculoskeletal Infection

PPI Image for O'BuzzEvery 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, Arvind Nana, MD, co-author of the July 19, 2017 Specialty Update on musculoskeletal infection, selected the five most compelling findings from among the more than 120 studies cited in the Specialty Update.

Periprosthetic Joint Infection

–Much of the discussion around treating periprosthetic joint infections (PJIs) centers around comparing one-stage versus two-stage exchange arthroplasty. Two-stage exchange arthroplasty requires the use of a temporary cement spacer, and one study1 found that debris from articulating spacers may induce CD3, CD20, CD11(c), and IL-17 changes, raising the possibility of associated immune modulation.

–When performing debridement to treat a PJI, instead of an irrigation solution containing antibiotics, a 20-minute antiseptic soak with 0.19% vol/vol acetic acid reduced the risk of reinfection.2

Spine

–Four studies helped bolster evidence that surgical-site infections are the leading cause of reoperations after spine surgery, both early (within 30 days)3, 4 and late (after 2 years).5, 6

Trauma

–A 100-patient prospective cohort study found that posttraumatic osteomyelitis treated with a 1-stage protocol and host optimization in Type B hosts resulted in 96% infection-free outcomes.7

Shoulder

–As in lower-extremity procedures, the risk of infection after shoulder arthroplasty and arthroscopy is higher when the surgeries are performed less than 3 months after a corticosteroid injection. This finding suggests elective shoulder procedures should be delayed for at least 90 days after such injections.8

References

  1. Singh G, Deutloff N, Maertens N, Meyer H, Awiszus F, Feuerstein B, Roessner A, Lohmann CH. Articulating polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) spacers may have an immunomodulating effect on synovial tissue. Bone Joint J. 2016 ;98-B(8):1062–8.
  2. Williams RL, Ayre WN, Khan WS, Mehta A, Morgan-Jones R. Acetic acid as part of a debridement protocol during revision total knee arthroplasty. J Arthroplasty. 2017 ;32(3):953–7. Epub 2016 Sep 28.
  3. Medvedev G, Wang C, Cyriac M, Amdur R, O’Brien J. Complications, readmissions, and reoperations in posterior cervical fusion. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2016 ;41(19):1477–83.
  4. Hijas-Gómez AI, Egea-Gámez RM, Martínez-Martín J, González-Díaz RC, Losada-Viñas JI, Rodríguez-Caravaca G. Surgical wound infection rates and risk factors in spinal fusion in a university teaching hospital in Madrid, Spain. Spine. November 2016.
  5. Ohya J, Chikuda H, Takeshi O, Kato S, Matsui H, Horiguchi H, Tanaka S, Yasunaga H. Seasonal variations in the risk of reoperation for surgical site infection following elective spinal fusion surgery: a retrospective study using the Japanese diagnosis procedure combination database. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2016 . Epub 2016 Nov 22.
  6. Ahmed SI, Bastrom TP, Yaszay B, Newton PO; Harms Study Group. 5-year reoperation risk and causes for revision after idiopathic scoliosis surgery. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2016 . Epub 2016 Nov 9.
  7. McNally MA, Ferguson JY, Lau ACK, Diefenbeck M, Scarborough M, Ramsden AJ, Atkins BL. Single-stage treatment of chronic osteomyelitis with a new absorbable, gentamicin-loaded, calcium sulphate/hydroxyapatite biocomposite: a prospective series of 100 cases. Bone Joint J. 2016 ;98-B(9):1289–96.
  8. Werner BC, Cancienne JM, Burrus MT, Griffin JW, Gwathmey FW, Brockmeier SF. The timing of elective shoulder surgery after shoulder injection affects postoperative infection risk in Medicare patients. J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2016 ;25(3):390–7. Epub 2015 Nov 30.

By Itself, Spine Surgery Not a Risk Factor for Prolonged Opioid Use

OpioidsThe use of prescription painkillers in the US increased four-fold between 1997 and 2010, and postoperative overdoses doubled over a similar time period. In the August 2, 2017 edition of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, Schoenfeld et al. estimated the proportion of nearly 10,000 initially opioid-naïve TRICARE patients who used opioids up to 1 year after discharge for one of four common spinal surgical procedures (discectomy, decompression, lumbar posterolateral arthrodesis, or lumbar interbody arthrodesis).

Eighty-four percent of the patients filled at least 1 opioid prescription upon hospital discharge. At 30 days following discharge, 8% continued opioid use; at 3 months, 1% continued use; and at 6 months, 0.1%. Only 2 patients (0.02%) in this cohort continued prescription opioid use at 1 year following surgery.

In an adjusted analysis, the authors found that an age of 25 to 34 years, lower socioeconomic status, and a diagnosis of depression were significantly associated with an increased likelihood of continuing opioid use. Those patient-related factors notwithstanding, the authors claim that the outcomes in their study “directly contravene the narrative that patients who undergo spine surgery, once started on prescription opioids following surgery, are at high risk of sustained opioid use.”

However, in his commentary on this study, Robert J. Barth, PhD, cautions that the exclusion criteria restricted even this large sample to about 19% of representative spine surgery candidates, making the findings not widely generalizable. Having said that, the commentator adds that the study supports findings of prior research that persistent postoperative opioid use is more related to “addressable patient-level predictors” than postsurgical pain. He also notes that the findings are “supportive of guidelines that call for surgical-discharge prescriptions of opioids to be limited to ≤2 weeks.”