In the June 7, 2017 issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, Pincus et al. report on a careful analysis comparing outcomes from hip fracture surgery occurring “after hours” (defined by the authors as weekday evenings between 5 PM and 12 AM) with surgeries occurring during “normal hours” (weekdays from 7 AM to 5 PM). In the busy Ontario trauma center where this study was performed, it is common for patients with blunt trauma to take precedence over seniors who are relatively stable but in need of hip fracture care.
Pincus et al. found that adverse outcomes, in terms of surgical and medical complications, were similar whether the hip surgery occurred during normal hours or after hours. Interestingly, there was a higher rate of inpatient complications in the normal-hours group, and fewer patients in the after-hours group were discharged to a rehab after surgery than in the normal-hours group.
It has been my impression that highly skilled professional surgeons and their teams are going to put forward their best efforts for all patients—no matter what time of day or night they operate. Concentration, focus, and high standards can generally overcome fatigue. However, the Pincus et al. study should not be viewed as justification for hospital decision makers to forget their commitment to optimize management of all resources, including surgical teams. After-hours care should never become “routine,” and there should be continuous attention on developing alternative solutions, such as moving elective surgery to other facilities or true shift scheduling that provides all members of the team with occasional daytime hours off for rest and management of personal lives.
The authors note that in their Canadian jurisdiction, there are hospital and surgeon-reimbursement incentives that may work to promote after-hours surgery, but the long-term focus must always put patient outcomes first. And we must always remember that good patient outcomes rely on maintaining surgical teams who are experienced and not burnt out.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
OrthoBuzz occasionally receives posts from guest bloggers. This guest post comes from E. Scott Paxton, MD, in response to a recent “Rapid Recommendation” in The BMJ.
An international panel convened by The BMJ recently issued a “Rapid Recommendation” that strongly recommends against using low-intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS) in patients with fracture or osteotomy because the treatment doesn’t improve functional recovery or pain.1
The systematic review on which the recommendation was based reviewed 26 trials of nearly 1600 patients with fracture or osteotomy who were randomized to either LIPUS or sham/no device.2 The authors concluded with moderate to high levels of certainty that the treatment had little effect on the time patients could return to work, time to full weight-bearing activity, pain levels, future operations, or time to radiographic healing.
In 2009, Busse et al. performed a similar meta-analysis, concluding that “evidence for the effect of low intensity pulsed ultrasonography on healing of fractures is moderate to very low in quality and provides conflicting results.”3 This analysis only included 13 trials, however. Then, in 2016, Busse et al. published results from the TRUST study,4 a blinded, randomized controlled trial of 501 patients from 43 North American academic trauma centers who had a fresh tibial shaft fracture treated with intramedullary nailing. The authors based their sample size calculations on the minimal clinically important difference on the SF-36 PCS, as this was a co-primary outcome. The authors found no improvement in radiographic healing time or functional recovery with the use of LIPUS. However, the authors noted that only 1 nonunion occurred among 195 sham-treated patients, demonstrating that this group was at extremely low risk for nonunion at baseline.
Including the TRUST trial in the 2017 meta-analysis of LIPUS led Schandelmaier et al. to the aforementioned conclusions and informed the strong BMJ Rapid Recommendation against the use of LIPUS for patients with any bone fracture or osteotomy. However, this recommendation was based in large part on the TRUST trial, which was unable to directly assess the effectiveness of LIPUS on reducing nonunion rates because of the almost universal healing of the fractures studied.
The BMJ Rapid Recommendation states “there was high quality evidence showing a lack of benefit in accelerating healing for fresh fractures; thus it is unlikely that LIPUS would improve outcomes in patients with non-union.” However, the effect of LIPUS on preventing nonunions in fractures known to have high nonunion rates or on treating established nonunions will require further high-quality studies looking at those patients specifically.
Scott Paxton, MD is an assistant professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University and a fellowship-trained shoulder and elbow surgeon at University Orthopedics in Providence, Rhode Island.
- Poolman RW, Agoritsas T, Siemieniuk RAC, et al. Low intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS) for bone healing: a clinical practice guideline. BMJ. February 2017:j576-j576. doi:10.1136/bmj.j576.
- Schandelmaier S, Kaushal A, Lytvyn L, et al. Low intensity pulsed ultrasound for bone healing: systematic review of randomized controlled trials. BMJ. 2017;356:j656. doi:10.1136/bmj.j656.
- Busse JW, Kaur J, Mollon B, et al. Low intensity pulsed ultrasonography for fractures: systematic review of randomised controlled trials. BMJ. 2009;338:b351. doi:10.1136/bmj.b351.
- TRUST Investigators writing group, Busse JW, Bhandari M, et al. Re-evaluation of low intensity pulsed ultrasound in treatment of tibial fractures (TRUST): randomized clinical trial. BMJ. 2016;355:i5351. doi:10.1136/bmj.i5351.
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, Derek Kelly, MD, co-author of the February 15, 2017 Specialty Update on Pediatric Orthopaedics, selected the five most clinically compelling findings from among the 60 studies summarized in the Specialty Update.
—A systematic review of eight randomized studies comparing splinting with casting for distal radial buckle fractures confirmed that splinting was superior in function, cost, and convenience, without an increased complication rate.1
—A review of the treatment of 361 pediatric diaphyseal femoral fractures before and after the 2009 publication of AAOS clinical guidelines for treating such fractures revealed that the guidance had little impact on the treatment algorithm in one pediatric hospital.
—Bracing remains an integral part of managing adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, but patient compliance with brace wear is variable. A prospective study of 220 patients demonstrated that physician counseling based on compliance-monitoring data from sensors embedded in the brace improved patients’ average daily orthotic use.
—AAOS-published evidence-based guidelines on the detection and nonoperative management of developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) in infants from birth to 6 months of age determined that only two of nine recommendations gleaned from evidence in existing literature could be rated as “moderate” in strength:
- Universal DDH screening of all newborn infants is not supported.
- Imaging before 6 months is supported if the infant has one or more of three listed risk factors.
Seven additional recommendations received only “limited” strength of support.
—A study of the utility of inserting an intraoperative intracranial pressure (ICP) monitor during closed reduction and pinning for slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE) found that 6 of 15 unstable hips had no perfusion according to ICP monitoring. However, all 6 hips were subsequently reperfused with percutaneous capsular decompression, and no osteonecrosis developed over the next 2 years.
- Hill CE, Masters JP, Perry DC. A systematic review of alternative splinting versus complete plaster casts for the management of childhood buckle fractures of the wrist. J Pediatr Orthop B. 2016 ;25(2):183–90.
In the March 1, 2017 edition of The Journal, Eliezer et al. report on their experience managing femoral fractures in a major treatment center in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, one of many low-resource locations around the world.
The authors tracked one-year outcomes for 331 femoral fractures in 329 patients. The vast majority of those fractures were treated with intramedullary nails, with open reduction and without intraoperative imaging. The actual reoperation rate for nails was 3.4%, with infection being the most common reason for reoperation.
Eliezer et al. also found that the factors most strongly associated with reoperation were proximal fractures with varus coronal alignment, small nail diameter (8 mm vs larger diameters), and a Winquist type-3 fracture pattern (comminution that included 50% to 75% of the femoral shaft).
Road-traffic accidents are the major cause of disability and loss of work productivity in the developing world among the young, economically productive segments of society. Through the support of organizations like SIGN Fracture Care International, local surgeons in low-resource countries have been able to treat patients who’ve sustained diaphyseal long bone fractures safely and with good functional outcomes. Carefully conducted follow-up studies such as this one give data-driven reassurance to everyone who supports these efforts that surgery can be safely conducted with good patient outcomes.
Performing intramedullary fixation allows early weight bearing and joint motion to limit muscle atrophy and joint stiffness. As long as we can be assured that these procedures have acceptably low rates of reoperation and patient morbidity, we can more confidently encourage the expansion of these programs in the developing world. Organizations like SIGN deserve our support in this regard.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
In the February 1, 2017 edition of The Journal, Deren et al. provide an important analysis of muscle mass as it relates to mortality in older patients with an acetabular fracture. Among 99 fracture patients studied retrospectively, 42% had sarcopenia, defined in this study as a skeletal muscle index at the L3 vertebral body of <55.4 cm2/m2 for men and <38.5 cm2/m2 for women.
Deren et al. found that low BMI was associated with sarcopenia and that patients with sarcopenia were significantly more likely than patients without sarcopenia to sustain their skeletal injury from a low-energy mechanism. Sarcopenia was also associated with a higher risk of 1-year mortality, especially when in-hospital deaths were excluded. While the authors note that there’s no consensus definition for clinically diagnosing sarcopenia, they conclude that “sarcopenia based on the skeletal muscle index may be a better predictor of mortality than other commonly used classification
There are important subtextual messages in this study for all physicians who manage geriatric patients. Maintenance of muscle mass by resistance exercise (lifting weights, isometrics, etc.) is of critical importance in limiting fall risk and maintaining good balance and bone density. Dietary considerations are intertwined with exercise in maintaining muscle mass among older patients. Resistance training and cardio exercise help to maintain appetite, and adequate protein intake is of utmost importance. When families and medical teams work together, the risk of sarcopenia can be minimized, resulting in lower rates of falls, fewer low-energy fractures, and less mortality.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
The debate continues as to whether midshaft clavicular fractures are optimally treated surgically or nonoperatively. More data about this clinical dilemma is delivered in the January 18, 2017 issue of JBJS, where Woltz et al. report findings from a multicenter controlled trial that randomized 160 clavicular-fracture patients to receive ORIF with a plate or nonoperative treatment with a sling and physical therapy.
The rate of radiographic nonunion was significantly higher in the nonoperatively treated group after 1 year, but no difference was found between the groups with respect to Constant and DASH scores at any time point—6 weeks, three months, and 1 year. Pain scores and general physical health were marginally better after operative treatment, but only at 6 weeks. However, the rate of second operations for adverse events in the ORIF group was considerable, and after 1 year, implant removal was performed in or scheduled for 16.7% of the operatively treated patients.
Based on these findings and other recent data, the authors “do not advocate routine operative treatment for displaced midshaft clavicular fractures,” although they say early plate fixation may offer advantages for patients who have high demands, high pain scores, or a strong preference for surgery. Based on the fact that “neither treatment option is clearly superior for all patients,” the authors conclude that “the clavicular fracture is preemninently suitable for shared treatment decision-making.”
In the January 4, 2017 issue of The Journal, Swart et al. provide a well-done Markov decision analysis on the cost effectiveness of three treatment options for femoral neck fractures in patients between the age of 40 and 65: open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF), total hip arthroplasty (THA), and hemiarthroplasty. Plugging the best data available from the current orthopaedic literature into their model, the authors estimated the threshold age above which THA would be the superior strategy in this relatively young population.
For patients in this age group, traditional thinking has been to perform ORIF in order to “save” the patient’s native hip and avoid the likelihood of later revision arthroplasty. However, in this analysis THA emerges as a cost-effective option in otherwise healthy patients >54 years old, in patients >47 years old with mild comorbidity, and in patients >44 years old with multiple comorbidities.
On average, both THA and ORIF have similar outcomes across the age range analyzed. But ORIF with successful fracture healing yields slightly better outcomes and considerably lower costs than THA, whereas patients whose fracture does not heal with ORIF have notably worse outcomes than THA patients. This finding supports my personal bias that anatomical reduction and biomechanically sound fixation must be achieved in this younger population with displaced femoral neck fractures. The analysis confirmed that, because of poor functional outcomes with hemiarthroplasty in this population, hemiarthroplasty should not be considered. Poor hemiarthroplasty outcomes are likely related to the mismatch between the metal femoral head and the native acetabular cartilage, leading to fairly rapid loss of the articular cartilage and subsequent need for revision.
This analysis by Swart et al. provides very valuable data to discuss with younger patients and families when engaging in shared decision making about treating an acute femoral neck fracture. In my experience, most patients in this age group prefer to “keep” their own hip whenever possible, which puts the onus on the surgeon to gain anatomic reduction and biomechanically sound fixation with ORIF.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
Orthopaedic journals and OrthoBuzz have devoted ample space to the apparent association between long-term bisphosphonate use and atypical femoral fractures. The latest insight into this relationship comes from Lim et al. in the December 7, 2016 edition of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery. The authors analyzed factors associated with delayed union or nonunion after surgical treatment of 109 atypical femoral fractures in patients who had an average 7.4-year history of bisphosphonate use.
Here’s what Lim et al. found among the 30% of patients studied who had delayed union or nonunion, relative to the 70% who had successful healing:
- Patient Factors: Patients who had problematic fracture healing had a higher BMI, longer duration of bisphosphonate exposure, and higher rate of prodromal symptoms.
- Radiographic/Fracture Factors: Supra-isthmic/subtrochanteric fracture location, femoral bowing of ≥10° in the coronal plane, and a lateral/medial cortical thickness ratio of ≥1.4 were predictive of problematic healing.
- Operative Factors: Iatrogenic cortical breakage around the fracture site and a ratio of ≥0.2 between the remaining gap and the cortical thickness on the anterior and lateral sides of the fracture site were associated with problematic fracture healing.
In an accompanying commentary on the study, Edward J. Harvey, MD notes that most trauma surgeons use cephalomedullary nails to treat atypical femoral fractures, but that “it is impossible from this manuscript to determine what effect the fixation technique had on the outcomes.” He therefore recommends a larger multicenter study using standardized therapy and bone biopsies to further improve understanding in this area.
How best to treat clavicle fractures remains a controversial question in orthopaedics. A study by Huttunen et al. in the November 2, 2016 JBJS does not resolve that controversy, but it sheds a little light on it.
The authors analyzed a validated Swedish hospital-discharge registry and determined that 44,609 clavicle fractures occurred in that country between 2001 and 2012. During that period, the incidence of clavicle fractures increased by 67%, from 35.6 to 59.3 per 100,000 person-years. During that same time, the rate of surgically treated clavicle fractures increased by 705%, from 2.5% of all clavicle fractures in 2001 to 12.1% in 2012. Surgical treatment was more common in men and in younger age groups. Nevertheless, nearly 90% of clavicle fractures were treated nonsurgically in 2012.
Huttunen et al. remain ambivalent in the discussion section of their study, saying that these and other recent findings “may support surgical treatment of young, active patients who need to return to their previous level of activity in the shortest possible time,” while noting that “high-quality evidence that surgery produces superior long-term results compared with nonoperative treatment remains lacking.”
Injuries to the musculoskeletal system are among the most common wounds of war. Compared with extremity injuries in the civilian population, injuries sustained in combat tend to be due to high-energy explosions and are associated with a greater degree of contamination and a longer timeline for recovery and healing. Importantly, the sequelae of musculoskeletal injuries sustained during combat tend to lead to more long-term disability than those affecting other organ systems.
In this month’s Editor’s Choice article, Rivera et al. review the current literature on combat injuries of the lower extremity and suggest that explosions are the most common mechanism of injury encountered by deployed service members. While exposure to an explosion does not necessarily result in a specific limb injury, the explosion mechanism does contribute to more severe injuries. Moreover, among service members who sustain open fractures of the tibia, foot, and ankle, infection is a common complication and is associated with more severe soft-tissue injury. As a result, surgeons who are deployed in combat settings are now performing more fasciotomies for limbs that are at risk. However, the outcomes and complication rates associated with these procedures are not well established, and the causes of late amputations are not always clear.
As part of a comprehensive review of this topic, Rivera et al. pose 3 important clinical questions that are ideal for translational research investigation. First, they ask, “What is the best way to manage and transport patients who have severe open fractures in order to minimize infection?” Indeed, while negative-pressure wound therapy (NPWT) appears to be a promising wound-care technique, additional study is needed in order to know how to best augment the standard of care for battlefield medicine. Second, “What is the best way to treat fasciotomy wounds and the late sequelae of the compartment syndrome?” In order to answer this question, a broader understanding of compartment syndrome detection and the indications for surgical treatment are needed. Finally, “What is the best way to select limbs for salvage and to optimize the reconstruction of injured tissues?” This question must explore not only the patient’s perspective but also the multitude of causes that lead to late amputation.
Thomas A. Einhorn, MD
Editor, JBJS Reviews