Understanding the mechanism behind a bone fracture helps orthopaedic surgeons select the best approach to reduction and fixation. But patients who present emergently and in great pain are often not able to articulate exactly what happened. Furthermore, when the orthopaedic literature describes mechanisms of injury in words, such as “a high-energy abduction and external rotation of the ankle…,” it leaves a lot to the imagination.
The cell-phone video below had the unintended positive consequence of helping the orthopaedic surgeon understand how this ankle injury—a Weber Type C high fibula fracture, with a spiral pattern, a posterior butterfly, and a large posterior malleolus fracture involving 40% of the articular surface—came about.
The injury was treated using a posterolateral approach to the posterior malleolus. Lag screw fixation was followed by posterior plating of the Weber C level fibula fracture. The syndesmosis was found to be intact during intraoperative testing, and the patient is recovering well.
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, Chad A. Krueger, MD, JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media, selected the five most clinically compelling findings from among the 25 noteworthy studies summarized in the July 3, 2019 “What’s New in Orthopaedic Trauma” article.
Proximal Humeral Fractures in the Elderly
–A recent meta-analysis1 analyzing data from >1,700 patients older than 65 who experienced a proximal humeral fracture found no difference in Constant-Murley scores at 1 year between those treated operatively (most with ORIF using a locking plate) and those treated nonoperatively. There was also no between-group difference with respect to reoperation rates among a subgroup of patients from the 7 randomized trials examined in the meta-analysis.
–A study using MRI to evaluate soft-tissue injuries in 17 cases of “simple elbow dislocation”2 found that the most common soft-tissue injury was a complete tear of the anterior capsule (71% of cases), followed by complete medial collateral ligament (MCL) tears (59%) and lateral collateral ligament tears (53%). These findings challenge previous theories positing that elbow instability starts laterally, with the MCL being the last structure to be injured.
Pertrochanteric Hip Fractures
–A trial randomized 220 patients with a pertrochanteric fracture to receive either a short or long cephalomedullary nail.3 There were no significant differences between the 2 groups at 3 months postsurgery in terms of Harris hip and SF-36 scores, but patients treated with the short nail had significantly shorter operative times, less blood loss, and shorter hospital stays. The incidence of peri-implant fractures between the 2 devices was similar.
Ankle Syndesmosis Injuries
–A randomized trial involving 97 patients with syndesmosis injuries compared functional and radiographic outcomes between those treated with a single syndesmotic screw and those treated with suture-button fixation. At 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years after surgery, patients in the suture-button group had better AOFAS scores than those in the screw group. CT scans at 2 years revealed a significantly higher tibiofibular distance among the screw group, an increase in malreduction that was noted only after screw removal. That finding could argue against early routine syndesmotic screw removal.
–A randomized trial among 470 patients4 facing elective removal of hardware used to treat a below-the-knee fracture compared the effect of intravenous cefazolin versus saline solution in preventing surgical site infections (SSIs). The SSI rate was surprisingly high in both groups (13.2% in the cefazolin group and 14.9% in the saline-solution group), with no statistically significant between-group differences. The authors recommend caution in interpreting these results, noting that there may have been SSI-diagnosis errors and that local factors not applicable to other settings or regions may have contributed to the high SSI rates.
- Beks RB, Ochen Y, Frima H, Smeeing DPJ, van der Meijden O, Timmers TK, van der Velde D, van Heijl M, Leenen LPH,Groenwold RHH, Houwert RM. Operative versus nonoperative treatment of proximal humeral fractures: a systematic review, meta-analysis, and comparison of observational studies and randomized controlled trials. J Shoulder Elbow Surg.2018 Aug;27(8):1526-34. Epub 2018 May 4.
- Luokkala T, Temperley D, Basu S, Karjalainen TV, Watts AC. Analysis of magnetic resonance imaging-confirmed soft tissue injury pattern in simple elbow dislocations. J Shoulder Elbow Surg.2019 Feb;28(2):341-8. Epub 2018 Nov 8.
- Shannon S, Yuan B, Cross W, Barlow J, Torchia M, Sems A. Short versus long cephalomedullary nailing of pertrochanteric hip fractures: a randomized prospective study. Read at the Annual Meeting of the Orthopaedic Trauma Association; 2018 Oct 17-20; Orlando, FL. Paper no. 68.
- Backes M, Dingemans SA, Dijkgraaf MGW, van den Berg HR, van Dijkman B, Hoogendoorn JM, Joosse P, Ritchie ED,Roerdink WH, Schots JPM, Sosef NL, Spijkerman IJB, Twigt BA, van der Veen AH, van Veen RN, Vermeulen J, Vos DI,Winkelhagen J, Goslings JC, Schepers T; WIFI Collaboration Group. Effect of antibiotic prophylaxis on surgical site infections following removal of orthopedic implants used for treatment of foot, ankle, and lower leg fractures: a randomized clinical trial. 2017 Dec 26;318(24):2438-45.
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, Niloofar Dehghan, MD, co-author of the July 5, 2018 Specialty Update on Orthopaedic Trauma, selected the five most clinically compelling findings from among the 32 studies summarized in the Specialty Update.
–Findings from a multicenter randomized trial comparing open reduction/internal fixation with nonoperative treatment for acute, displaced, distal-third clavicle fractures1 included the following:
- No between-group differences in DASH and Constant scores at 1 year post-injury
- Higher rates of nonunion and malunion in the nonoperative group
- Similar rates of secondary surgical procedures in the two groups
Despite no significant differences in functional outcomes between the two groups, primary fixation of these fractures reduced the risk of nonunion and malunion and decreased the magnitude of secondary procedures.
–A retrospective cohort study of 84 patients with nonoperatively treated humerus shaft fractures2 showed fracture union in 87% of the cohort at a mean of 18 weeks. However, researchers found that if physical examination at 6 weeks after injury revealed motion at the fracture site, progression to fracture union was unlikely. They concluded that results from clinical examination of fracture motion at 6 weeks could help patients and physicians with shared decision-making regarding the appropriateness of transitioning to surgical fixation
Syndesmotic Ankle Injuries
–A randomized controlled trial compared outcomes between a suture button and 1 quadricortical syndesmotic screw in patients undergoing syndesmosis fixation. After 2 years, patients in the suture button group had higher AOFAS ankle scores, higher Olerud-Molander ankle scores, and a lower rate of tibiofibular widening of ≥2 mm than the syndesmotic screw group. Findings also favored the suture button group in terms of symptomatic recurrent syndesmotic diastasis.
–A similar randomized trial compared suture button fixation with screw fixation using two 3.5-mm cortical screws.3 There were no between-group differences in functional outcomes, but the rates of malreduction and unplanned reoperations were higher in the screw group. The suture button group had greater syndesmosis diastasis and less fibular medialization.
Blood Loss Management
–In a randomized trial comparing transfusion rates among 138 patients who underwent arthroplasty for low-energy femoral neck fractures,4 researchers found no significant differences among those treated with tranexamic acid versus those treated with placebo. However, tranexamic acid reduced the amount transfused by 305 mL. There were no between-group differences in adverse events at 30 and 90 days.
- Canadian Orthopaedic Trauma Society, Hall J, Dehghan N, Schemitsch EH, Nauth A, Korley R, McCormack R, Guy P, Papp S, McKee MD. Operative vs nonoperative treatment of acute displaced distal clavicle fractures: a multicenter randomized controlled trial. Read at the Orthopaedic Trauma Association 33rd Annual Meeting; 2017 Oct 11-14; Vancouver, Canada. Paper no. 4.
- Driesman AS, Fisher N, Karia R, Konda S, Egol KA. Fracture site mobility at 6 weeks after humeral shaft fracture predicts nonunion without surgery. J Orthop Trauma.2017 Dec;31(12):657-62.
- Canadian Orthopaedic Trauma Society, Sanders D, Schneider P, Tieszer C, Lawendy AR, Taylor M. Improved reduction of the tibiofibular syndesmosis with TightRope compared to screw fixation: results of a randomized controlled study. Read at the Orthopaedic Trauma Association 33rd Annual Meeting; 2017 Oct 11-14; Vancouver, Canada.
- Watts CD, Houdek MT, Sems SA, Cross WW, Pagnano MW. Tranexamic acid safely reduced blood loss in hemi- and total hip arthroplasty for acute femoral neck fracture: a randomized clinical trial. J Orthop Trauma.2017 Jul;31(7):345-51.
Under 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 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:
Fractures of the Neck of the Talus: Long-Term Evaluation of 71 Cases
S T Canale and F B Kelly Jr: JBJS, 1978 Jan; 60 (2): 143
One of the most challenging diagnoses for general orthopedic surgeons and fracture specialists alike is a fracture of the talar neck. In this landmark JBJS article, the authors focused attention on the importance of quality of reduction and created an enduring fracture classification that paralleled complication rates and potential outcomes.
A Biomechanical Study of Normal Functional Elbow Motion
B F Morrey, L J Askew, E Y Chao: JBJS, 1981 Jan; 63 (6): 872
This JBJS article convincingly answered the question about the minimal range of elbow motion needed to accomplish activities of daily living. Using modern 3-dimensional optical tracking technology 30 years after Dr. Morrey’s study appeared, Sardelli et al. found only minimal ROM differences compared to findings in the Morrey study.
OrthoBuzz regularly brings you a current commentary on a “classic” article from The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery. These articles have been selected by the Editor-in-Chief and Deputy Editors of The Journal because of their long-standing significance to the orthopaedic community and the many citations they receive in the literature. Our OrthoBuzz commentators highlight the impact that these JBJS articles have had on the practice of orthopaedics. Please feel free to join the conversation by clicking on the “Leave a Comment” button in the box to the left.
One of the most challenging diagnoses for general orthopedic surgeons as well as fracture specialists is a fracture of the talar neck. The infrequency of displaced talar fractures means that orthopaedic residents receive relatively little training in this area. A pivotal JBJS article in 1978 focused attention on these vexatious injuries. “Fractures of the Neck of the Talus” by Canale and Kelly provides clinically useful information and does two things that are very difficult to do today:
- Follows patients for a long time (an average of nearly 13 years)
- Obtains direct evidence of outcomes by physical exam, one-on-one measurement, and long-term imaging.
This remarkable duration of follow-up, so important in determining the impact of treatment in musculoskeletal injury, is very difficult today as a result of overly enthusiastic privacy protections and a costly regulatory infrastructure.
This classic JBJS article capitalizes on other classics, such as those by Blair (1943) on talar body salvage and studies by Halliburton (1958) and Mulfinger (1970) on the anatomy of talar blood supply. While Mulfinger showed the vascular supply of the talus,1 that study did not link that information to clinical care. The study by Canale and Kelly provides insight into how our care for patients with these uncommon fractures affects outcomes. In addition, the relatively primitive state of art at the time for the operative treatment of talar fractures led to fear of infection, and limited understanding of the basics of fracture healing and underdeveloped implants for fixation steered many surgeons away from rigid fixation in favor of closed reduction and cast immobilization.
The authors identified 107 fractures treated over a 33-year period; they examined and obtained radiographs on 71 of those fractures in 70 patients at an average follow-up of almost 13 years. (Fourteen of the patients were followed for more than 20 years, and 5 were followed for more than 30 years.) The preferred treatment protocol was closed reduction and casting. A reduction with less than 5 mm of displacement and 5° of misalignment was considered adequate. Open reduction with internal fixation was performed when these criteria were not met.
To assess outcomes, the authors directly measured ankle and subtalar motion, assessed whether a limp was present, and asked patients to rate their pain. Long before “patient-reported outcome measures” was a recognized term, these authors recorded them. Only 59% of patients in this series achieved good or excellent outcomes. The authors identified the high morbidity of these injuries, including avascular necrosis in more than half and 25 who needed later surgical intervention. The authors also recommended against talectomy as a salvage procedure.
While hampered by relatively low-resolution imaging and outcome measures that don’t meet current standards of reproducibility, Canale and Kelly provided a great deal of information that focused attention on the importance of quality of reduction. In addition, the paper created an enduring fracture classification that paralleled complication rates and potential outcomes.
Bruce Sangeorzan, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor
- Mulfinger GL, Trueta J. The blood supply of the talus. J Bone Joint Surg Br. 1970 Feb;52(1):160-7
OrthoBuzz occasionally receives posts from guest bloggers. In response to a recent JAMA study, the following two commentaries come from Chad Krueger, MD, and Shahriar Rahman, MS.
“Hmmm…. Maybe I’m operating on too many ankle fractures.” That was my first thought as I read the abstract of the recent Willett et al. study in JAMA. They conducted a well-designed, randomized controlled trial that compared operative and nonoperative treatment of unstable ankle fractures, using the Olerud-Molander Ankle Score at 6 months postoperatively as the primary outcome measure.
On the surface, it appeared as though patients who were treated nonoperatively with close contact casting did just as well as those who underwent operative intervention. This seemed to be not only the case with the primary outcome measure, but also with secondary outcomes such as quality of life, pain, and patient satisfaction. “Do less” appeared to be the main message of the abstract. However, I became more skeptical after critically reading the entire article.
First off, the study was designed to determine differences between treatment groups, not to prove that they were equivalent. Finding no difference is not the same as showing equivalence, and the article did the former, not the latter.
There are also a few things about the study that may limit the wide applicability of the findings and provide some solace to surgeons like me who feel that fixing unstable ankle fractures provides superior outcomes. First, only initial radiographs were used to determine who had unstable ankle fractures. Stress radiographs were an exclusion criterion, so for the many ankle fractures that require such imaging to determine instability, the results from Willett et al. may not apply.
Second, the study was designed to compare these treatments in older adults. The mean ages of operative and nonoperative groups were 69.8 and 71.4 years old, respectively, and almost 75% of both groups were female. While bone density was not measured in either group, it is likely that many patients included in this study had osteoporotic disease, which introduces another potential variable when interpreting the findings.
Furthermore, nearly 20 percent of all patients who initially were treated with casting developed some type of complication that required conversion to surgical fixation. This finding, plus the fact that all casts were applied by surgeons in the operating room with patients under general or spinal anesthesia, suggests that treating unstable ankle fractures with surgical fixation in a single visit would perhaps provide the most definitive treatment.
So, I will probably continue to offer patients with unstable ankle fractures surgical fixation. I have never tried the close contact casting that was described in the article, and I suspect, despite the authors’ claim of evidence to the contrary, that there is a significant learning curve associated with that technique. If about one out of every five patients I perform casting on as definitive treatment ends up needing additional procedures, I am not sure I have done the patient justice. While this study provides interesting evidence and may apply to a small subset of my older patients, I think it has limited applicability in other patients who present with unstable ankle fractures.
Chad Krueger, MD is a military orthopaedic surgeon at Womack Army Medical Center in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
* * * *
The Willett et al. study in JAMA indicates that some patients older than 60 years with unstable ankle fractures can be treated by modified casting alone, without the need for operative stabilization and fixation. The study protocol allowed conversion to surgery among patients randomized to casting if reduction was not possible during the initial procedure or was lost within the first 3 weeks.
One hundred surgeons applied close contact casting at 24 major trauma centers and general hospitals in the UK. After 6 months, the mean Olerud-Molander Ankle Score was 66.0 in the surgery group vs 64.5 in the casting group—no significant difference in the primary outcome.
Secondary outcomes showed that the rate of radiographic malunion was 15% in the casting group compared with 3% in the surgery group. Conversion from casting to operative treatment was high: of the 311 patients randomized to casting, 70 (23%) were ultimately treated by internal fixation, including 18 never treated with close contact casting and 52 who lost reduction and required conversion to internal fixation. Rates of infection and wound complications were 10% in the surgical group versus 1% in the casting group. Additional operating room procedures were required in 6% of the surgery group and 1% of the casting group. Casting required less operating room time compared with surgery.
The overall similarity in clinical outcomes in this study challenges the importance of restoring exact ankle-joint congruence in older adults and suggests that function and pain are not as closely related to malunion as many clinicians believe. Neither method yielded an entirely satisfactory outcome in older adults. In older patients with lower demand, shorter life expectancy, lesser bone and tissue quality, and diminished capacity for healing, the rates of delayed or infected wound healing and loss of implant fixation are greater.
Casting may be an imperfect alternative to surgery particularly in developing countries. One must remember, however, that plaster technique is an art. Achieving the successful outcomes with close contact casting as described by Willett et al. is likely to pose a learning curve. Further studies are needed to identify which specific patients are most and least likely to benefit from casting.
Shahriar Rahman, MS is a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in Bangladesh.
The practice of orthopaedic surgery is moving fairly rapidly to the outpatient environment. Advances in less invasive surgical procedures, regional anesthesia, and postoperative pain management have provided the foundation for this transition. The migration to outpatient surgery centers enables surgeons to use surgical teams more focused on orthopaedic technology and practice parameters. The concern that arises in everyone’s mind, though, is the issue of safety.
In the October 19, 2016 issue of JBJS, Qin et al. analyzed the NSQIP database and found that the outpatient surgical treatment of patients with a closed ankle fracture and minimal comorbidities resulted in lower risk of pneumonia and no difference in surgical morbidity, reoperations, and readmissions when compared with inpatient surgery.
The NSQIP dataset is voluntary and, as with any database, confounding variables are unavoidable. But these authors used propensity score matching and Bonferroni correction to minimize selection bias and manage multiple comparisons.
The study excluded emergency cases, cases with preoperative sepsis, and cases of open ankle fracture, and I can still foresee that patients with more severe fracture patterns, soft tissue compromise, and unstable medical comorbidities would be better off treated as inpatients. Nevertheless, it is reassuring that this study found no differences in complication or readmission rates. These findings reinforce the movement of orthopaedic surgical practice to the outpatient setting, and in my experience that movement is wholly welcomed by patients and their families.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
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, David Teague, MD, co-author of the July 7, 2016 Specialty Update on orthopaedic trauma, selected the eight most clinically compelling findings from among the 35 studies summarized in the Specialty Update.
–The randomized PROFHER trial found that surgical treatment of acute displaced proximal humeral fractures (with either ORIF or hemiarthroplasty) yielded no difference in patient outcomes compared with nonsurgical sling treatment at time points up to 2 years. Surgery was also significantly more expensive.1
–A randomized trial of 461 patients with an acute dorsally displaced distal radial fracture found no difference at one year in primary or secondary outcomes between a group that received ORIF and a group that received Kirschner-wire fixation. K-wire fixation was also more cost-effective.2
–A retrospective study of 137 type-III open tibial fractures concluded that both antibiotic prophylaxis and definitive wound coverage should occur as soon as possible for severe open tibial fractures. Prehospital antibiotic administration should be considered when transport is expected to take longer than one hour. 3
–A randomized trial of 214 patients who received either supervised physical therapy or engaged in self-directed home exercise after six weeks of immobilization treatment for an ankle fracture found no difference in activity and quality-of-life outcomes at 1, 3, and 6 months.4
–A registry study examining the incidence of deep venous thrombosis (DVT)/pulmonary embolism (PE) after surgery for a fracture distal to the knee identified the following risk factors for a thromboembolic event: previous DVT or PE, oral contraceptive use, and obesity.
–A randomized controlled trial of 2,447 patients compared irrigation with normal saline solution at various pressures to castile soap irrigation. Saline was superior in terms of reoperation rates after 12 months but irrigation pressure did not influence the reoperation rate.5
–A retrospective cohort study involving 104 patients who required a fasciotomy found that hospital stays were shorter among patients who underwent delayed primary closure (DPC) or a split-thickness skin graft on the first post-fasciotomy surgery. The authors noted limited utility of repeat surgeries to achieve DPT if fasciotomy wounds were not closed primarily on the first return trip.6
–A prospective observational study of 376 trauma patients requiring orthopaedic surgery found that those with a BMI of >30 kg/m2 had an overall complication rate of 38% and had longer hospital stays, longer delays to definitive fixation, and higher infection rates than nonobese patients.7
- Rangan A, Handoll H, Brealey S, Jefferson L, Keding A, Martin BC, Goodchild L, Chuang LH, Hewitt C,Torgerson D; PROFHER Trial Collaborators. Surgical vs nonsurgical treatment of adults with displaced fractures of the proximal humerus: the PROFHER randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2015 Mar 10;313(10):1037-47.
- Costa ML, Achten J, Plant C, Parsons NR, Rangan A, Tubeuf S, Yu G, Lamb SEUK. UK DRAFFT: a randomised controlled trial of percutaneous fixation with Kirschner wires versus volar locking-plate fixation in the treatment of adult patients with a dorsally displaced fracture of the distal radius. Health Technol Assess.2015 Feb;19(17):1-124: v-vi
- Lack WD, Karunakar MA, Angerame MR, Seymour RB, Sims S, Kellam JF, Bosse MJ. Type III open tibia fractures: immediate antibiotic prophylaxis minimizes infection. J Orthop Trauma. 2015 Jan;29(1):1-6.
- Moseley AM, Beckenkamp PR, Haas M, Herbert RD, Lin CW; EXACT Team. Rehabilitation after immobilization for ankle fracture: the EXACT randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2015 Oct 6;314(13):1376-85.
- Bhandari M, Jeray KJ, Petrisor BA, Devereaux PJ, Heels-Ansdell D, Schemitsch EH, Anglen J, Della RoccaGJ, Jones C, Kreder H, Liew S, McKay P, Papp S, Sancheti P, Sprague S, Stone TB, Sun X, Tanner SL,Tornetta P 3rd., Tufescu T, Walter S, Guyatt GH; FLOW Investigators. A trial of wound irrigation in the initial management of open fracture wounds. N Engl J Med. 2015 Dec 31;373(27):2629-41. Epub 2015 Oct 8.
- Weaver MJ, Owen TM, Morgan JH, Harris MB. Delayed primary closure of fasciotomy incisions in the lower leg: do we need to change our strategy? J Orthop Trauma. 2015 Jul;29(7):308-11.
- Childs BR, Nahm NJ, Dolenc AJ, Vallier HA. Obesity is associated with more complications and longer hospital stays after orthopaedic trauma. J Orthop Trauma. 2015 Nov;29(11):504-9.