Among the elderly, low-energy hip fractures are common injuries that almost all orthopaedic surgeons encounter. While operative management is typically the standard of care, there are some patients for whom nonoperative treatment is most aligned with their goals of care, usually because of chronic disease, fragility, and/or high risk of perioperative mortality.
When counseling elderly patients and family members about the risks and benefits of surgical management for a hip fracture, we have abundant data. We can estimate the length of rehabilitation, discuss the likelihood of regaining independence with ambulation, and quote the 30-day, 1-year, and 5-year mortality statistics. But what about the risks and benefits of nonoperative care? How long do these patients live? How many are alive 1 year after the fracture?
Chlebeck and colleagues attempt to answer those questions with a retrospective cohort study of 77 hip fracture patients who were treated nonoperatively and a matched cohort of 154 operatively treated hip fracture patients. Nonoperative management was chosen only after a palliative-care consult was obtained and after a thorough multidisciplinary discussion of treatment goals with the patient and family. Patients who elected nonoperative care were treated with early limited weight bearing and a focus on maximizing comfort. Researchers established a comparative operative cohort through 2:1 matched pairing, controlling for age, sex, fracture type, Charlson Comorbidity Index, preinjury living situation, preinjury ambulatory status, and presence of dementia and cardiac arrhythmia.
As one might expect, there was significantly lower mortality in the operative group. The in-hospital, 30-day, and 1-year mortality for nonoperatively treated patients was 28.6%, 63.6%, and 84.4% respectively. The mortality rates seen in the operative cohort were 3.9%, 11.0%, and 36.4% respectively. A Kaplan-Meier survival analysis revealed the median life expectancy in the nonoperative cohort to be 14 days, versus 839 days in the operative group (p <0.0001). Interestingly, the researchers found no difference in hospital length of stay between the two groups (5.4 vs. 7.7 days; p=0.10).
These results provide useful references for orthopedic surgeons to use when counseling hip fracture patients and their families. Surgical intervention remains the standard of care in most instances, and this study suggests that operative care offers a significant mortality benefit over nonoperative care even in relatively unhealthy patients, like those selected for the matched operative cohort.
This study also gives us data to help guide the expectations of patients who decide surgery is not in line with their wishes. Half of the patients who elected nonoperative care in this study died within 14 days of admission, and only 15.6% were still alive at 1 year. Additionally, choosing nonoperative care does not lengthen hospitalization, suggesting that these patients can be quickly transferred to a more comfortable setting.
Matthew Herring, MD is a fellow in orthopaedic trauma at the University of California, San Francisco and a member of the JBJS Social Media Advisory Board.
The orthopaedic community began to move away from individual fracture classifications in the mid-1980s. The basis for that shift was the need for wider recognition that fractures represent a “continuous variable,” with infinite varieties of orientations and combinations of fracture lines. Trying to fit fractures into a narrow classification system can lead to confusion and misinformation. Furthermore, surgeons often disagree when determining a fracture’s classification and, therefore, which treatment is best.
To move away from individual classification systems, orthopaedic journals have generally moved toward the compendium of fracture classifications approved by the OTA and AO. Still, there are times when a new fracture classification seems appropriate, and in the June 5, 2019 issue of The Journal, Pieroh et al. have provided us with an example that classifies fragility fractures of the pelvis (FFP). The 4-group FFP classification is based on fracture morphology with different degrees of instability and includes treatment recommendations.
The authors collected the CT scans of 60 patients from 6 different hospitals who were ≥60 years old and had sustained a pelvic fracture from low-energy trauma. These CT scans were shown to 6 experienced surgeons, 6 inexperienced surgeons, and 1 surgeon who had direct experience/training with the FFP system. Each surgeon was asked to classify the pelvic fractures according to the FFP classification. Inter- and intra-rater reliabilities for the fracture classifications were calculated from these readings, and the overall inter-rater Kappa coefficient was found to be 0.53, while the overall intra-rater Kappa coefficient was 0.46 (Kappa coefficients of 0.61 to 0.41 constitute “moderate” reliability). In terms of percent agreement, there was greater agreement between surgeons when it came to classifying FFP Group 1 fractures than for FFP Group 2 and 3 fractures. This is noteworthy because Group 3 fractures are thought to require surgical treatment, while primary treatment for Group 2 fractures is usually nonoperative.
Pelvic fractures that are associated with low bone density and low-energy trauma are becoming increasingly frequent as our population continues to skew older. Having a validated, relatively straightforward classification system like the FFP to assist us in managing these patients will be of great assistance. The sound methodology used to develop the FFP classification system and its decent reliability, face validity, and construct and criterion validity can assure all of us about the usefulness of the FFP classification as the basis for future clinical investigations and to advance the care of these patients.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
The practice of using a geriatrician- or a hospitalist-based co-management team to care for elderly patients who are admitted to the hospital for treatment of fragility fractures or other orthopaedic procedures is now more than a decade old. These services have grown in popularity because patients are living longer with comorbidities and becoming more complex to manage medically, and because shift-based hospitalist practices have become more common. These coordinated partnerships help the hospitalist- or geriatrician-led medical team optimize the patient’s care medically, while allowing the orthopaedic surgeon to focus on the patient’s musculoskeletal condition. The consensus I have heard is that patients are better off with these co-management systems, but hard evidence has been sparse.
In the April 17, 2019 issue of The Journal, Blood et al. report on the use of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) Global Trigger Tool to assess the adverse-event impact of a Geriatric Hip Fracture Program (GHFP). In a bivariate analysis of pre- and post-GHFP data, the authors document a decrease in the rate of adverse events and shorter lengths of stay among elderly hip-fracture patients after GHFP implementation. However, multivariable analysis confirmed only a trend toward decreasing adverse-event rates after the implementation of the program. This study also seems to confirm what many of us already know empirically—that hip-fracture patients with severe medical comorbidities (i.e., a high Charlson Comorbidity Index) are at increased risk of adverse events no matter what system of care they receive.
Still, what most orthopaedic surgeons have felt was a “no-brainer,” coordinated approach to optimizing patient care and decreasing adverse events now has more evidence of effectiveness. Because such programs decrease both adverse events and length of stay among elderly patients hospitalized for a hip fracture, orthopaedic surgeons everywhere should advocate for increased geriatrician training to support this movement. Furthermore, these findings should encourage further research into additional patient-centric medical care strategies that could improve outcomes for these patients.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
This post comes from Fred Nelson, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon in the Department of Orthopedics at Henry Ford Hospital and a clinical associate professor at Wayne State Medical School. Some of Dr. Nelson’s tips go out weekly to more than 3,000 members of the Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS), and all are distributed to more than 30 orthopaedic residency programs. Those not sent to the ORS are periodically reposted in OrthoBuzz with the permission of Dr. Nelson.
During childhood and adulthood, we often put ourselves at risk for future fractures based on our activity, diet, and social habits. Many factors affect the risk of both stress fractures in younger people and fragility fractures later in life. Everyone—but especially athletes and active-duty military personnel—could benefit from an early heads-up regarding their genetic and phenotypic predisposition to stress fractures. Later in life, the FRAX index is a very useful multifactor risk score, but it is usually calculated only after a sentinel event, such as a fragility fracture.
Ultrasound is a readily available and inexpensive way to obtain an estimated heel bone mineral density (eBMD). Many common genetic variants contribute to the genetic basis for the eBMD phenotype. These variants are most commonly characterized by single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, pronounced “snips”). Stanford researcher Stuart Kim developed the BMD Osteoporosis Genetic (BOG) risk score by combining 22,886 SNPs with data on height, weight, sex, and age.1 The correlation between actual eBMD and the BOG algorithm was 0.496, which was higher than the correlations achieved using the 22,886 genetic predictors or the four covariates alone.
Individuals with low BOG scores had a 17.4-fold increased risk for osteoporosis compared to those with the median BOG score. Low BOG scores were also associated with a 1.9-fold higher risk for bone fractures compared to median BOG values. However, the algorithm’s ability to discriminate cases from controls in the overall population was modest. The receiver operator area under the curve for predicting osteoporosis or fracture by the BOG algorithm was 0.78 and 0.57, respectively.
Although the effect of an individual SNP may be inconsequential, the cumulative effect from many SNPs can be large. The author stated that “an algorithm such as the BOG risk score might be useful to screen the general population…to identify individuals that warrant closer examination, such as BMD measurement via DXA [dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry].”
- Kim SK. Identification of 613 new loci associated with heel bone mineral density and a polygenic risk score for bone mineral density, osteoporosis and fracture. PLoS One. 2018 Jul 26;13(7):e0200785. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0200785. eCollection 2018. PMID: 30048462
OrthoBuzz has published several posts about osteoporosis, fragility fractures, and secondary fracture prevention. In the May 17, 2017 edition of JBJS, Bogoch et al. add to evidence suggesting that a coordinator-based fracture liaison service (FLS) improves engagement with secondary-prevention practices among inpatients and outpatients with a fragility fracture.
The Division of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Toronto initiated a coordinator-based FLS in 2002 to educate patients with a fragility fracture and refer them for BMD testing and management, including pharmacotherapy if appropriate. Bogoch et al. analyzed key clinical outcomes from 2002 to 2013 among a cohort of 2,191 patients who were not undergoing pharmacotherapy when they initially presented with a fragility fracture.
- Eighty-four percent of inpatients and 85% of outpatients completed BMD tests as recommended.
- Eighty-five percent of inpatients and 79% of outpatients who were referred to follow-up bone health management were assessed by a specialist or primary care physician.
- Among those who attended the referral appointment, 73% of inpatients and 52% of outpatients received a prescription for anti-osteoporosis medication.
The authors conclude that “a coordinator-based fracture liaison service, with an engaged group of orthopaedic surgeons and consultants…achieved a relatively high rate of patient investigation and pharmacotherapy for patients with a fragility fracture.”
On Thursday, February 23, 2017, at 6:00 pm EST, the Own the Bone initiative will offer a webinar titled “Atypical Fractures and Osteoporosis Medication Considerations”
James Goulet, MD, from the University of Michigan, will discuss atypical fractures and other rare outcomes of the use of osteoporosis medication, including what to look for and how to treat these occurrences. He will also address drug holidays, and how and when to continue treatment on these complex cases.
The American Orthopaedic Association (AOA) developed Own the Bone as a quality improvement program to address the osteoporosis treatment gap and prevent subsequent fragility fractures.
0.75 hour of CME credit is available.
The statistics about osteoporosis and associated fragility fractures are sobering:
- One-quarter of adults living in the US currently have osteoporosis or low bone density.
- Twenty-four percent of people aged 50 and older who sustain a hip fracture will die within a year after the fracture.
- Patients who have had one fragility fracture have an 86% increased risk for a second fracture.
Amid these troubling data stands hope from an effective, team-based clinical response—the fracture liaison service (FLS). In the April 15, 2015 edition of JBJS, Miller et al . explain how an FLS works and the results it achieves.
The authors define the fracture liaison service as “a coordinated care model of multiple providers who help guide the patient through osteoporosis management after a fragility fracture to help prevent future fractures.” The three key players on the FLS team are a coordinator (usually an advanced-practice provider), a physician champion (whom the authors say should be an orthopaedic surgeon), and a “nurse navigator.” Miller et al. describe the roles these FLS core team members play (including patient care and education and communication with other clinical services and administrators), suggest ways to organizationally justify an FLS, and lay out a stepwise implementation roadmap.
The authors conclude that an FLS “is adaptable to any type of health-care system, improves patient outcomes, and decreases complications and readmissions related to secondary fractures.” And there’s an important fringe benefit: “The FLS can help improve performance on quality measures…and help health-care organizations during this transition from volume payment to quality payment,” they say.
Physicians worldwide frequently prescribe bisphosphonates such as alendronate (Fosamax) and ibandronate (Boniva) to treat osteoporosis and prevent fragility fractures. Unfortunately, long-term bisphosphonate use has been linked to an increased risk of atypical femoral fractures. In the March 3, 2015 edition of JBJS Reviews, Blood et al. offer some guidance on how to prevent such fractures.
The authors note that prodromal thigh pain and a radiolucent line on X-rays of patients with a history of chronic bisphosphonate use are strong indicators of an impending fracture. Among bisphosphonate users who have an incomplete fracture with little or no pain, the authors recommend a trial of discontinued bisphosphonates, protected weight-bearing, calcium and vitamin-D supplementation, and possible teriparatide (Forteo) therapy. They add that prophylactic fixation should be considered if there is no radiographic or symptomatic improvement after two to three months of that conservative approach. Blood et al. further recommend that patients at high risk for atypical femoral fracture, should consider discontinuing bisphosphonate therapy after five years of continuous use. They also encourage orthopaedists to assess the contralateral femur for signs of impending fracture in patients who have already had an atypical femoral fracture.
The recommendations by Blood et al. notwithstanding, we should stress that the absolute risk of atypical femoral fractures fractures is low (3.2 to 50 cases per 100,000 person-years among short-term bisphosphonate users and about 100 cases per 100,000 person-years among long-term users). Consequently, for most people with osteoporosis, the proven fragility-fracture risk-reduction benefits of bisphosphonates outweigh the risks of atypical femoral fracture.
In my 20-plus years serving as a deputy editor and editor of JBJS, I have never seen the kind of media interest in research published in The Journal that the Harper et al. study on distal radius fractures in older men has received.
This well-done retrospective evaluation of 95 males and 344 females who were treated for a distal radius fracture at a single institution has been discussed in multiple forums and media outlets, including the national newswire services, scientific and clinical blog sites, and health reports on local and national TV newscasts.
One conclusion from the Harper et al. analysis was that males older than 50 who had a distal radius fracture are receiving far worse follow-up care compared to females with the same characteristics in terms of bone-mineral density testing and subsequent pharmacologic treatment to prevent future fractures. For example, an older male with a fragility-caused distal radius fracture is nearly 10 times less likely to undergo bone-density testing than a woman with the same fracture. What is so newsworthy about this finding as to prompt headlines such as “Gender Bias in Osteoporosis Screening”?
My hypothesis is that orthopaedic research has focused too much on procedural-based interventions. When research such as the Harper et al. study extends beyond developing new therapies to matters of population health and application of evidence-based therapies, the public pays especially close attention. Previous OrthoBuzz posts by my JBJS predecessor Vern Tolo, MD and JBJS Reviews Editor-in-Chief Tom Einhorn, MD have called on clinicians to take a more aggressive approach toward primary and secondary prevention of fragility fractures. JBJS commentator Douglas Dirschl, MD says that the gender disparity revealed by Harper et al. “should shock the medical community into improved performance.”
Orthopaedic surgeons are increasingly working in teams consisting of family physicians with additional musculoskeletal training, radiologists, anesthesiologists, nurses, PTs, OTs, and athletic trainers. As our field expands its scope to “musculoskeletal health, prevention, and treatment” and away from exclusively invasive interventions, let’s continue to invite the public along. Based on the media coverage of the Harper et al. study, the public appears to be a willing partner in our attempts to reduce the risk of fragility fractures.
Do you think including preventive and population-health perspectives is the right direction for our field? Send us a comment of support or a dissenting view by clicking on the “Leave a Comment” button in the box to the left.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
This is my first Editor’s Choice for OrthoBuzz as new Editor-in-Chief of JBJS. I am following the example of my esteemed predecessor, Vern Tolo, who recently issued an Editor’s Choice warning about our failure to improve the management of patients with fragility fractures in terms of appropriate diagnosis and treatment of underlying osteoporosis. That is a failure of under-treatment. I want to focus on a potential issue of overtreatment.
In the July 2, 2014 JBJS, Leroux et al. describe the risk factors for repeat surgery after ORIF of midshaft clavicle fractures. The study analyzed 1,350 patients treated with surgery between 2002 and 2010 in Ontario. It is important to note that this analysis includes years after 2007, when JBJS published the seminal multicenter RCT on this topic by the Canadian Orthopaedic Trauma Society (COTS). The essence of that study was that ORIF with plate fixation results in a lower rate of nonunion and better functional outcomes predominantly in patients who have completely displaced fractures with about 2 cm of shortening or displacement.
Since that publication, we have seen an explosion in the operative treatment of midshaft clavicle fractures in North America. However, all too often the inclusion criteria derived from the seminal RCT are not referenced in individual patient decision making, and the presence of a clavicle fracture–regardless of degree of displacement–becomes an indication for surgical management.
The findings of the Leroux study should help put a hard stop to this! These researchers found a 24.6% incidence of repeat surgery in this cohort of patients. The most common reoperation was isolated implant removal (18.8%), and the incidence of major complications included nonunion (2.6%), deep infection (2.6%), pneumothoraces (1.2%), and malunion (1.1%). Risk of reoperation was increased in female patients and in those with major medical comorbidities. Limited surgeon experience increased the risk of reoperation for infection.
The orthopaedic surgery community must heed these data and act upon them. We should not misinterpret the COTS study to “encourage” a patient to opt for surgery if he or she has a midshaft clavicle fracture with less than 2 cm of shortening or displacement. The technical aspects of surgery for midshaft clavicle nonunion is not that different than that for a fresh fracture, so avoidance of nonunion must be thoughtfully discussed with the patient before recommending surgical fixation.
The bottom line that Leroux et al. provide is that surgery for a midshaft clavicle fracture is not a guaranteed success and that surgeon experience matters. And beyond clavicle fractures, let’s be sure we use our literature during shared decision making in an accurate and appropriate manner. That is a basic tenet of professionalism that we all should subscribe to.