OrthoBuzz occasionally receives posts from guest bloggers. This guest post comes from Frederick A. Matsen, MD and Jeremy S. Somerson, MD.
The coronavirus pandemic is having a profound effect on healthcare economics. A recent article in Health Affairs1 estimates that the median direct medical cost of a single symptomatic COVID-19 case can exceed $3,000 during the course of the infection alone. As of this writing, there have been almost 2.5 million confirmed cases in the US,2 with the number of known cases doubling every 2 months.3 These numbers suggest that the direct medical costs of the pandemic could easily exceed $8 billion. In addition, federal legislation enacted to help mitigate the effects of the pandemic is estimated to cost more than $480 billion over the next 10 years.4
Independently, the application of new technologies has also been pushing healthcare costs upward for decades. Long before the pandemic, a 2008 report from the Congressional Budget Office concluded that “the bottom line from all these analyses is that the single most important factor driving the long-term increase in health care costs involves medical technology” and that “technological advances on average have brought major health improvements, but they often then get applied in settings where their benefits seem much less obvious.”5
In orthopaedics, we are strongly attracted to technology. In some cases – such as arthroscopy – technological advances enable less invasive, more effective, and safer treatments. In other cases, the patient benefits “seem much less obvious.” A recent review article makes the following observations about technology use in arthroplasty:
- Computer-assisted technologies that are used in arthroplasty include navigation, image-derived instrumentation, and robotics.
- Computer-assisted navigation improves accuracy and allows for real-time assessment of component positioning and soft-tissue tension.
- It is not clear whether the implementation of these technologies improves the clinical outcome of surgery.
- High cost and time demands have prevented the global implementation of computer-assisted technologies.
If we take shoulder arthroplasty as a general example, we see that prior to the introduction of routine preoperative CT scans, 3D planning, patient-specific instrumentation, metal-backed and augmented glenoid components, and short-stemmed and stemless humeral components, the results of anatomic total shoulder replacement for osteoarthritis were excellent, with 10-year revision rates under 5%.6,7 Such outcomes do not leave much room for improvement from newer technologies, each of which carries incremental costs of research, development, clearance by the FDA, marketing, learning curves, and potential product recalls and unanticipated long-term adverse effects.8 As Rosenthal et al. recently pointed out, “Since 3D planning and intraoperative navigation is more costly than 2D planning, and augmented glenoid components are more costly than standard glenoid components, the cost-benefit of these changes with respect to mid-term and long-term clinical outcomes and implant survival has not been ascertained.”9
Robust clinical data are needed to establish the incremental benefit to patients of each new technology in order to justify its associated incremental costs in comparison to legacy approaches that have been in place for years.
As a more specific example, the average cost of a preoperative shoulder CT scan ranges from $625 to $8,400,10 yet it remains to be demonstrated whether application of this technology leads to better shoulder arthroplasty outcomes in comparison to results obtained with conventional preoperative radiographic imaging.11 Agyeman et al. recently concluded that “although CT scans are associated with greater financial cost and exposure to radiation than radiographs, the literature has yet to describe the additional clinical value and/or potential cost-value benefit as a result of improved outcomes provided by the use of CT scans in patients undergoing total shoulder arthroplasty, even when integrated with virtual planning software and generation of patient specific instrumentation.” If a preoperative shoulder CT scan costs $1,000, the very low end of the aforementioned range, avoiding routine preoperative CTs in 3 shoulder-arthroplasty patients would save an amount of money equal to the average direct medical cost of a patient with COVID-19—$3,000.
We conclude that this is a good time to seriously reconsider how we apply new technologies in orthopaedics by asking a simple question: Are we spending our more-precious-than-ever healthcare dollars in ways that best serve the population as a whole?
Frederick A. Matsen III, MD is a professor in the Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Jeremy S. Somerson, MD is a fellowship-trained shoulder and elbow surgeon at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
- Bartsch SM, Ferguson MC, McKinnell JA, O’Shea KJ, Wedlock PT, Siegmund SS, et al. The potential health care costs and resource use associated with COVID-19 in the United States. Health Aff (Millwood). 2020;39(6):927-35.
- John Hopkins University CSSE. COVID-19 dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at John Hopkins University (JHU). 2020 Accessed June 28, 2020. Available from: https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6.
- Hernandez S, O’Key S, Watts A, Manley B, Pettersson H, CNN. Tracking Covid-19 cases in the US. CNN, 2020 Accessed June 28, 2020. Available from: https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2020/health/coronavirus-us-maps-and-cases/.
- Congressional Budget Office. The budgetary effects of laws enacted in response to the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, March and April 2020. 2020 Accessed June 28, 2020. Available from: https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/2020-06/56403-CBO-covid-legislation.pdf.
- Congressional Budget Office. Technological change and the growth of health care spending. 2008 Accessed June 28, 2020. Available from: https://www.cbo.gov/publication/24748.
- Australian Orthopaedic Association National Joint Replacement Registry (AOANJRR). Annual report 2019: Hip, Knee & Shoulder Arthroplasty. Total Shoulder outcomes over two decades. Figure ST22, Page 16. 2019 Accessed June 28, 2020. Available from: https://aoanjrr.sahmri.com/documents/10180/668596/Hip%2C+Knee+%26+Shoulder+Arthroplasty/c287d2a3-22df-a3bb-37a2-91e6c00bfcf0.
- Neer CS, 2nd, Watson KC, Stanton FJ. Recent experience in total shoulder replacement. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 1982;64(3):319-37.
- Somerson JS, Neradilek MB, Hsu JE, Service BC, Gee AO, Matsen FA, 3rd. Is there evidence that the outcomes of primary anatomic and reverse shoulder arthroplasty are getting better? Int Orthop. 2017;41(6):1235-44.
- Rosenthal Y, Rettig SA, Virk M, Zuckerman JD. The impact of preoperative three-dimensional planning and intraoperative navigation of shoulder arthroplasty on implant selection and operative time: a single surgeon’s experience. J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2020;Epub ahead of print.
- Poslusny C. How much does a CT scan cost? New Choice Health, Inc., Pensacola, FL, Accessed June 28, 2020. Available from: https://www.newchoicehealth.com/ct-scan/cost.
- Matsen FA, 3rd, Whitson A, Hsu JE, Stankovic NK, Neradilek MB, Somerson JS. Prearthroplasty glenohumeral pathoanatomy and its relationship to patient’s sex, age, diagnosis, and self-assessed shoulder comfort and function. J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2019;28(12):2290-300.
One goal of an orthopaedic surgery residency is to prepare residents for the procedures they will perform when they are attendings. Yet, until the retrospective cohort study by Kohring et al. in the April 4, 2018 issue of The Journal, it remained unclear how similar a resident’s surgical case mix was compared to the cases attendings saw in early practice. Kohring et al. used data from both the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery (ABOS) to compare the types of procedures residents performed between 2010 and 2012 to the cases junior attendings submitted for the ABOS Part II examination between 2013 and 2015. The authors then categorized the cases by CPT codes and split them into adult and pediatric categories to allow for further comparison.
Here are a few interesting findings from the study:
- More than half of all adult and pediatric procedures performed during residency and by early-career attendings fell within the top 10 CPT code categories.
- Knee and shoulder arthroscopy were the most commonly performed cases in adults during both residency and early practice.
- Residents take part in total knee and total hip arthroplasties much more frequently than do attendings in early practice.
- Attendings in early practice treat more than twice the number of proximal femur fractures than do residents during residency.
- Residents are exposed to a much higher rate of spinal fusion cases than are seen by early-practice attendings.
Although the authors conclude that the “similarity between residency and early practice experience is generally strong,” this study highlights some of the disparities between the two cohorts, and these findings may inform further research aimed at improving training for orthopaedic surgeons. By themselves, however, these results should not be used to change the experience residents have during their training. The authors mention the limitations inherent when comparing these two cohorts, and I can testify that my clinical practice has evolved tremendously in the 3 years since I started as an attending.
Furthermore, with more than 90% of orthopaedic residents going on to complete a subspecialty fellowship immediately after residency, it is safe to say that the degree of similarity between residency and attending case experience will vary from surgeon to surgeon.
Chad A. Krueger, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media
OrthoBuzz occasionally receives posts from guest bloggers. This guest post comes from Grigory Gershkovich, MD.
Shoulder arthroplasty continues to grow in popularity, and as the number of shoulder arthroplasties rises, so will the number of revisions. Infection is one major reason for shoulder arthroplasty failure, and Propionibacterium has been increasingly recognized as a major culprit.
However, Propionibacterium infection is difficult to diagnose. Despite improved detection techniques, diagnosis at the time of revision remains elusive because obvious signs of acute infection are often absent. The need to perform explantation in the setting of clinically apparent periprosthetic infection is obvious, but the appropriateness of single-stage revision with antibiotic treatment in shoulders with only apparent mechanical failures remains questionable.
Hsu et al. attempted to address this question in a study published in the December 21, 2016 issue of JBJS. The group retrospectively reviewed the outcomes of 55 shoulders that underwent revision arthroplasty due to continued pain, stiffness, or component loosening without obvious clinical infection. Mean follow up was 48 months. At least five cultures were obtained intraoperatively during each revision, and each case was treated with antibiotics as if were truly infected until the final culture results were received after three weeks. Shoulders were revised to either hemi-arthroplasty, total shoulder arthroplasty, or reverse total shoulder arthroplasty.
Hsu et al. analyzed outcomes according to two groups: the positive cohort (n=27), where shoulders had ≥ 2 cultures positive for Propionibacterium, and the control cohort (n=28), where shoulders had either 0 or 1 positive culture. The two groups were compared by before- and after-revision performance on the simple shoulder test (SST) and pain outcome scores.
Both groups improved postoperatively based on these patient-reported outcome measures, and no significant difference was found between the two groups. Three patients in each group required a return to the OR. Gastrointestinal side effects were the most commonly reported complication from prolonged antibiotic administration.
This study design was limited by its retrospective nature and the lack of a two-stage revision treatment comparison group. Furthermore, this study included only patients with no signs of clinical infection, and the findings may not be applicable to patients with perioperative signs of infection. The study also incorporated three revision surgery implant options, which could have influenced postoperative SST and pain scores. Larger, multicenter controlled trials will be needed to produce a more definitive answer to this complicated question.
Still, there are clear benefits of single-stage revision over two-stage revision, especially with regard to operative time, anesthesia risks, and patient recovery. Given the wide antibiotic sensitivity profile of Propionibacterium and these initial results from Hsu et al., single-stage revision with appropriate antibiotic therapy may be suitable for patients undergoing revision shoulder arthroplasty in the setting of suspected Propionibacterium infection.
Grigory Gershkovich, MD is chief resident at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. He will complete a hand fellowship at the University of Chicago in 2017-2018.
Propionibacterium acnes is a frequently isolated pathogen in postoperative shoulder infections, but where exactly does it come from? According to a study by Falconer et al. in the October 19, 2016 Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, P. acnes derives from the subdermal edges of the surgical incision and spreads through contact with the surgeon’s gloves and surgical instruments.
The authors obtained specimens for microbiological analysis at five different sites from 40 patients undergoing primary shoulder arthroplasty. Thirty-three percent of the patients had at least one culture specimen positive for P. acnes, and the most common site of P. acnes growth was the subdermal layer, followed by forceps.
The authors observed no clinical postoperative infections during the follow-up of 6 to 18 months, although that is a relatively short investigation period for a pathogen that often causes late-onset indolent infections. The authors conclude that “it is likely that surgeon handling of the skin and subdermal layer contaminates the rest of the surgical field.” Although the study did not investigate preventive techniques, based on the findings the authors suggest the following possible prophylactic approaches:
- Minimizing handling of the subdermal layer
- Changing gloves after the dermis is cut
- Avoiding contact between implants and the subdermal layer
- Repeating use of antibacterial agents once the wound is opened
The recently launched JBJS Knee Spotlight offers highly relevant and potentially practice-changing knee content from the most trusted source of orthopaedic information.
Here are the five JBJS articles to which you will have full-text access through the Knee Spotlight during the month of October 2016.
- What’s New in Adult Reconstructive Knee Surgery
- The Effect of Timing of Manipulation Under Anesthesia to Improve Range of Motion and Functional Outcomes Following Total Knee Arthroplasty
- Nonsurgical or Surgical Treatment of ACL Injuries: Knee Function, Sports Participation, and Knee Reinjury
- Topical Intra-Articular Compared with Intravenous Tranexamic Acid to Reduce Blood Loss in Primary Total Knee Replacement
- Total Knee Replacement in Young, Active Patients: Long-Term Follow-up and Functional Outcome
Knee studies offered on the JBJS Knee Spotlight will be updated monthly, so check the site often.
In the December 16, 2015 edition of The Journal, Pellegrini et al. present the results from a cohort of 23 patients who had initially undergone ankle arthrodesis and then, due to decreasing function and increasing mid- and hindfoot pain, sought relief via conversion to an ankle arthroplasty. The good news is that this conversion provided meaningful clinical improvement in pain and function, with 87% survival of the implants over the mean 33-month follow-up.
One technical detail the authors recommend is prophylactic fixation of the malleoli as a concomitant procedure, noting that local osteopenia related to arthrodesis make malleoli prone to fracture during insertion of the tibial component. It is difficult to determine if these conversions were necessitated by poor surgical technique during the original arthrodesis, but I suspect in some cases they were. Also, considering the arthritic changes to the mid- and hindfoot joints related to arthrodesis, it is easy to understand that patients would benefit from the takedown of the fusion and return of some ankle motion to diminish the stress on those joints.
Reflecting on the findings from this clinical cohort series has prompted me to change my surgical technique for ankle arthrodesis. Formerly I hemi-sected the lateral malleolus and fixed it to the talus and distal tibia. Now I preserve the distal fibula, ensure removal of all cartilage in the medial and lateral gutters, add bone graft, and provide fixation with cancellous lag screws. This change in technique facilitates takedown of the fusion and conversion to ankle arthroplasty if necessary in the future. In my opinion, the clarion call now for ankle arthrodesis must be “save the fibula!”
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
Fractures of the femoral head are uncommon. Typically associated with hip dislocations, they are found in association with high-energy trauma. They occur more commonly in men than women. Because of their relatively rare occurrence, large series with validated outcomes have not been reported. As noted by Marecek et al. in the November 2015 issue of JBJS Reviews, the goals of treatment are to achieve early and safe reduction and fixation and, in doing so, avoid complications, including osteonecrosis and heterotopic ossification.
To accomplish these goals, it is important to identify any associated life-threatening injuries and to achieve prompt reduction. A distinction is made between infrafoveal and suprafoveal fractures and the presence of associated femoral neck or acetabular fractures. Operative treatment is usually accomplished through the direct anterior or surgical hip dislocation approach, depending on the associated injury patterns. The use of mini-fragment lag screw fixation is generally preferred.
The initial treatment of femoral head fractures follows advanced trauma life support (ATLS) protocols. If hip dislocation is present, urgent reduction is performed in conjunction with skeletal relaxation to decrease the risk of osteonecrosis of the hip. Nonoperative treatment is reserved for patients with infrafoveal fractures with a concentric hip joint and no intra-articular debris and patients in whom operative intervention carries a morbid risk of complications. The timing of intervention for femoral head fractures remains controversial, and at least one randomized controlled trial demonstrated significantly worse outcomes for patients who had closed manipulative reduction and delayed open reduction and internal fixation compared with patients who received immediate operative reduction and fixation.
In summary, femoral head fractures are uncommon but severe. After prompt reduction of hip dislocations, a thorough evaluation is required to detect all associated injuries and to formulate an appropriate operative plan. Treatment should be directed toward achieving a stable, concentrically reduced hip with anatomic reduction of the fracture or excision of comminution and removal of articular debris. Arthroplasty should be reserved for patients who are older, those who have degenerative changes of the hip, and those who have complex injuries, the treatment of which would be more detrimental or risky than immediate arthroplasty.
Thomas A. Einhorn, MD
Editor, JBJS Reviews
Along with the sharply rising number of total hip and knee arthroplasties performed in the US comes an increasingly compelling need to prevent periprosthetic joint infections (PJIs). If a PJI occurs, guidelines recommend a two- to six-week post-revision course of pathogen-specific intravenous antibiotic therapy. However, the benefit of chronic suppression with oral antibiotics beyond that is unproven.
In the August 5 edition of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, Siqueira et al. compared the infection-free prosthetic survivorship in 92 patients who underwent chronic oral antibiotic suppression for a minimum of six months with prosthetic survivorship in a matched cohort who did not receive extended antibiotic treatment. In so doing, they also attempted to determine factors associated with failure of chronic suppression with oral antibiotics.
The five-year infection-free prosthetic survival rate in the suppression group was 68.5% compared with 41.1% in the non-suppression group. Patients who benefited the most from chronic suppressive antibiotic therapy were:
- Those who underwent irrigation and debridement with polyethylene exchange. (Antibiotic suppression following two-stage procedures did not affect prosthetic survival.)
- Those with Staphylococcus aureus (Chronic antibiotic therapy did not influence infection-free survival after revisions for non-S. aureus infections.)
Suppression-group patients in whom antibiotic treatment failed had had more prior joint revisions and were more likely to have had a knee PJI than a hip infection.
Noting the benefit of suppressive therapy in patients who underwent irrigation and debridement with polyethylene exchange, the authors concluded that “persistence of a latent infection is common in patients with retained implants, and thus antibiotic suppression seems to be a reasonable alternative that avoids the need for a more invasive two-stage revision.”
Surgical site infections (SSIs) can cancel out the benefits of surgery, and they’re the number-one cause of hospital readmissions following surgery. The most prevalent pathogenic culprit is Staphylococcus aureus.
A study of patients undergoing cardiac or hip or knee arthroplasty surgery at 20 hospitals in nine states found that the following protocol reduced the rate of complex (deep incisional or organ-space) S. aureus SSIs by about 40% overall—and by about 50% among patients undergoing hip or knee arthroplasty (an absolute difference of 17 infections per 10,000 joint replacements):
- Preoperative screening of nasal samples
- Intranasal mupirocin and chlorhexidine baths for up to five days prior to surgery for patients testing positive for methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) or methicillin-susceptible S. aureus (MSSA)
- Perioperative prophylaxis with vancomycin plus cefazolin or cefuroxime for MRSA carriers and perioperative cefazolin or cefuroxime for all others
Rates of complex SSIs decreased most substantially among patients who were fully adherent to the protocol, although only 39% of the subjects experienced implementation of all the steps. Adherence rates were especially low among those who presented in urgent and emergency settings.
In an editorial accompanying the study, Preeti Malani, MD wrote that “although the absolute difference [in infections] seems modest, each complex SSI prevented is clinically meaningful.”
Surgeons performed more than 1.1 million joint replacements in the US in 2011. That same year, the International Consortium of Orthopaedic Registries (ICOR) was launched to help close gaps in evidence and data collection related to orthopaedic implants. The ICOR network now consists of more than 70 stakeholders and more than 30 orthopaedic registries representing 14 nations.
The December 17, 2014 edition of The Journal contains an online supplement with 14 articles highlighting the achievements of international registries and the findings from 12 ICOR-initiated registry studies. The first article in the supplement (National and International Postmarket Research and Surveillance Implementation) summarizes the findings from the 12 registry studies. The second article (A Distributed Health Data Network Analysis of Survival Outcomes) provides an overview of the data extraction processes and analytic strategies used in the studies.
Key findings from the 12 studies contained in the supplement:
- Effect of Femoral Head Size on Metal-on-HXLPE Hip Arthroplasty Outcome in a Combined Analysis of Six National and Regional Registries
There were no differences in revision risk when metal-on-HXLPE (highly cross-linked polyethylene) implants with larger and smaller femoral head sizes were compared.
- Risk of Revision Following Total Hip Arthroplasty: Metal-on-Conventional Polyethylene Compared with Metal-on-Highly Cross-Linked Polyethylene Bearing Surfaces
Non-cross-linked polyethylene was not associated with significantly worse revision outcomes when compared with metal-on-HXLPE.
- Distributed Analysis of Hip Implants Using Six National and Regional Registries: Comparing Metal-on-Metal with Metal-on-Highly Cross-Linked Polyethylene Bearings in Cementless Total Hip Arthroplasty in Young Patient
Large-head-size metal-on-metal implants were associated with increased risk of revision after two years, compared with metal-on-HXLPE implants.
Use of ceramic-on-ceramic implants with a smaller head size was associated with a higher revision risk compared with metal-on-HXLPE implants and ceramic-on-ceramic implants with head sizes >28 mm.
- Multinational Comprehensive Evaluation of the Fixation Method Used in Hip Replacement: Interaction with Age in Context
When compared with hybrid fixation, cementless fixation was associated with an approximately 58% higher risk of revision surgery in patients aged 75 years or older.
- International Comparative Evaluation of Knee Replacement with Fixed or Mobile Non-Posterior-Stabilized Implants
Mobile-bearing, non-posterior-stabilized knee designs presented a 40% higher risk of failure than that found with fixed-bearing, non-posterior-stabilized designs.
- International Comparative Evaluation of Knee Replacement with Fixed or Mobile-Bearing Posterior-Stabilized Prostheses
Compared with fixed-bearing posterior-stabilized knee prostheses, patients who received mobile bearings had an 85% higher chance of revision within the first postoperative year.
- International Comparative Evaluation of Fixed-Bearing Non-Posterior-Stabilized and Posterior-Stabilized Total Knee Replacements
Fixed non-posterior-stabilized (cruciate-retainin0 TKA performed better (with or without patellar resurfacing) than did fixed posterior-stabilized (cruciate-substituting) TKA.
- Survivorship of Hip and Knee Implants in Pediatric and Young Adult Populations: Analysis of Registry and Published Data
Reported revision rates of TKA and THA among pediatric and young-adult patients is currently similar to that for older patients, but the dearth of data makes it incumbent on registries to continue collecting and analyzing data relevant to younger populations.
This systematic review and meta-analysis concluded that surgeons performing a primary THA should use an implant that outperforms benchmarks established by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
- Review of Clinical Outcomes-Based Anchors of Minimum Clinically Important Differences in Hip and Knee Registry-Based Reports and Publications
Among 19 registry reports and 1052 articles examined, only one report and two studies mentioned patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) and minimum clinically important differences in connection with revision rates after TKA or THA.
- Implementation of Patient-Reported Outcome Measures in U.S. Total Joint Replacement Registries: Rationale, Status, and Plans
Successful collection of PROM data is possible with careful attention to selection of outcome measure(s) and minimizing the data-collection burden on physicians and patients.