OrthoBuzz occasionally receives posts from guest bloggers. In response to a recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine, the following commentary comes from Jaime L. Bellamy, DO.
A majority of patients I see for knee osteoarthritis (OA) want a quick fix. Many would like to skip conservative treatment–activity modification, weight loss, physical therapy (PT), anti-inflammatory medication, and intra-articular steroid injections–and go straight to surgical management. Regarding nonoperative management of knee OA, the most recent AAOS Clinical Practice Guidelines “strongly” recommend that patients participate in PT and “inconclusively” recommend intra-articular steroid injections.1 Yet, in my clinical practice, I confess to typically offering a knee injection first, before PT.
I may change that practice in light of the randomized controlled trial (RCT) by Deyle et al. in the April 9, 2020 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. The trial compared PT to glucocorticoid knee injections among 156 primary-care knee OA patients within a military health system. The primary outcome measure was the WOMAC score at 1 year. Secondary outcomes included the Alternate Step Test and the Timed Up and Go test.
Seventy-eight patients randomly assigned to each group were included in the analysis. The PT intervention included detailed home-exercise instructions and 8 sessions with a therapist over the initial 4- to 6-week period. Patients could also attend 1 to 3 PT sessions at the 4-month and 9-month reassessments. Knee-injection patients received 1 ml of triamcinolone acetonide (40 mg per milliliter) and 7 ml of 1% lidocaine up to three times in one year.
The mean baseline WOMAC scores were similar between the groups. However, at 1 year, the authors found a mean between-group difference of 18.8 points in WOMAC scores, favoring PT over injections. Secondary outcomes also favored PT over knee injections.
Regardless of this RCTs limitations, such as the lack of reporting on knee-injection techniques, the findings serve as a reminder to orthopaedists to recommend PT as an effective nonoperative treatment option for knee OA. Additionally, our primary care colleagues can use this data to help convince patients with knee OA that they do not need to rush in to see a surgeon.
Jaime L. Bellamy, DO (@jaimelbellamyDO) is an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in hip and knee reconstruction in Fort Bragg, NC and a member of the JBJS Social Media Advisory Board.
- AAOS Clinical Practice Guidelines, Treatment of Osteoarthritis of the Knee, 2nd Edition (2013), http://www.orthoguidelines.org/topic?id=1005, accessed 4/14/2020.
A recent report in Radiology citing possible complications from injecting steroids into painful joints with osteoarthritis (OA) has received lots of attention in the mainstream media. Radiologists from Boston, Germany, and France reviewed the existing literature and found an association between intra-articular steroid injections and a small increased risk of four adverse joint findings: accelerated OA progression, subchondral insufficiency fracture, complications from osteonecrosis, and bone loss. However, the study did not include a control group that did not receive injections, and therefore it cannot be used to assess whether injections are associated causally with the adverse joint findings.
In an interview with Boston radio station WBUR, lead author Ali Guermazi, MD stressed the point that readers should not conclude from this report that steroid injections cause these complications, adding that additional research in this area is “urgently needed.” In the same radio coverage, Jeffrey Katz, MD, a professor of orthopaedic surgery at Boston’s Brigham & Women’s Hospital and a Deputy Editor at JBJS, said patients who have received such injections or plan to should not be overly worried. However, he added that “for clinicians and patients who’ve been doing injections for several years, it’s worth it to pause and say, ‘Do we want to discuss [again] what we think are the benefits and risks of this.’”
In 2015, JBJS launched an “article exchange” collaboration with the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy (JOSPT) to support multidisciplinary integration, continuity of care, and excellent patient outcomes in orthopaedics and sports medicine.
During the month of July 2019, JBJS and OrthoBuzz readers will have open access to the JOSPT article titled “Effectiveness of Foot Orthoses Versus Corticosteroid Injection for Plantar Heel Pain: The SOOTHE Randomized Clinical Trial.”
Among 103 patients with plantar heel pain who received either arch-contouring foot orthoses or a single ultrasound-guided corticosteroid injection, the injection was more effective at week 4, but the foot orthoses were more effective at week 12. But the authors note that “the differences between the interventions did not meet the previously calculated minimal [clinically] important difference value of 12.5 points.”
In a recent OrthoBuzz post, I commented on the apparent benefits to patients when Scottish hip-fracture guidelines were followed. Now, in a “closer-to-home” study in the May 16, 2018 issue of JBJS, Bedard et al. examine the effects of AAOS clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) on the use of injections for knee osteoarthritis (OA). The authors used an insurance database housing more than 1 million knee OA patients to evaluate the change in rates of corticosteroid and hyaluronic acid injections from 2007 to 2015. This date range includes the periods before and after the publication of the AAOS CPGs for knee arthritis (both the first edition, published in early 2009, and the second edition, published in late 2013).
The authors found that the rate of hyaluronic acid injections by orthopaedic surgeons decreased significantly after both publications of the guidelines and that the utilization of corticosteroid injections appears to have plateaued since the most recently published guidelines. Still, almost 40% of all of the patients in the cohort received a corticosteroid injection, with 13% having received a hyaluronic acid injection. In absolute numbers, those percentages represent more than half a million injections, despite the facts that the evidence supporting either injection for the treatment of knee OA is weak at best and that almost half of the patients receiving one of these injections ended up getting a total knee replacement within a year.
While the changes in practice revealed by Bedard et al. may seem relatively small, they are a step in the right direction toward value-based care. CPGs are easy to pick apart, but they are developed carefully and for a good reason—to provide us with evidence-based recommendations for excellent patient care. It is gratifying to see that such guidelines are having a positive impact in our field.
Chad A. Krueger, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media
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, Chad A. Krueger, MD, JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media, selected the most clinically compelling findings from among the more than 150 studies cited in the January 17, 2018 Specialty Update on Adult Reconstructive Knee Surgery.
Nonoperative Knee OA Treatment
—Intra-articular corticosteroid injections are commonly administered to mitigate pain and inflammation in knee osteoarthritis (OA). However, a randomized controlled trial of 140 patients found that 2 years of triamcinolone injections, when compared with saline injections, resulted in a significantly greater degree of cartilage loss without significant differences in symptoms.1
Non-Arthroplasty Operative Management
—Knee arthroscopy continues to be largely ineffective for pain relief and functional improvement in knee OA. A randomized controlled trial found no evidence that debridement of unstable chondral flaps found at the time of arthroscopic meniscectomy improves clinical outcomes.
—Cartilage restoration procedures continue to show varying degrees of success. Long-term results from a randomized trial demonstrated no significant differences in joint survivorship and function between patients undergoing microfracture versus autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI) at 15 years of follow-up. Nearly 50% of patients in both groups had radiographic evidence of early knee OA.
Periprosthetic Joint Infection
—Periprosthetic joint infection (PJI) remains a leading cause of failure following total knee arthroplasty (TKA). Successful treatment requires accurate diagnosis, and alpha-defensin was found to be both sensitive and specific in the diagnosis of PJI. However, it was not significantly superior to leukocyte esterase (LE) in cases of obvious infection.
—Reported rates of reinfection after 2-stage reimplantation for treatment of a first PJI can be as high as 19%. A 3-month course of oral antibiotics following 2-stage procedures significantly improved infection-free survival without complications.2
Post-TKA Complications from Opioids
—Amid ongoing concerns about opioid misuse, two studies3 suggested that preoperative opioid use was found to be an independent predictor of increased length of stay, complications, readmissions, and less pain relief following TKA.
- McAlindon TE, LaValley MP, Harvey WF, Price LL, Driban JB, Zhang M,Ward RJ. Effect of intra-articular triamcinolone vs saline on knee cartilage volume and pain in patients with knee osteoarthritis: a randomized clinical trial. 2017 May 16;317(19):1967-75.
- Frank JM, Kayupov E, Moric M, Segreti J, Hansen E, Hartman C, Okroj K,Belden K, Roslund B, Silibovsky R, Parvizi J, Della Valle CJ; Knee Society Research Group. The Mark Coventry, MD, Award: oral antibiotics reduce reinfection after two-stage exchange: a multicenter, randomized controlled trial. Clin Orthop Relat Res.2017 Jan;475(1):56-61.
- Rozell JC, Courtney PM, Dattilo JR, Wu CH, Lee GC. Preoperative opiate use independently predicts narcotic consumption and complications after total joint arthroplasty. J Arthroplasty.2017 Sep;32(9):2658-62. Epub 2017 Apr 12.
Orthopaedists frequently treat knee osteoarthritis with hyaluronic acid (HA) or corticosteroid injections, but which works better?
The 99 patients in a double-blinded randomized controlled trial by Tammachote et al. in the June 1, 2016 Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery received a single intra-articular injection of either 6 mL of hylan G-F 20, or 1 mL of 40-mg triamcinolone acetonide plus 5 mL of 1% lidocaine. At the six-month follow-up, both groups experienced significant and similar improvements in knee pain, function, and range of motion, without complications. But there were short-term distinctions: Triamcinolone relieved pain better and faster in the first week, after which the effect became similar to that of HA. Similarly, triamcinolone provided better functional improvement than HA at two weeks post-injection, but the effects of the two drugs were not statistically distinguishable after that.
In commenting on this study, Paul Levin, MD, says that its findings “support the [AAOS] clinical practice guideline of a strong recommendation against the use of hyaluronic acid.” He goes on to do a quick cost analysis showing that if 1.2 million people received a single cortisone injection (approximately $10 each) and another 1.2 million people received a single HA injection (per-injection prices ranging from $250 to more than $1000), the yearly medication cost would be $300 million to $1.2 billion for HA, versus $12 million for corticosteroid.
Dr. Levin says explaining both clinical and cost considerations to patients can be challenging. “It is easier, more efficient, and less acrimonious to comply with our patient’s request for [HA],” he writes. But he reminds orthopaedists that “bioethical principles along with the concept of shared decision-making do require a physician to spend the necessary time to educate his or her patients.”
People with shoulder impingement syndrome (SIS) randomly assigned to six sessions of physical therapy (PT) experienced the same 50% improvement in average pain and disability scores as a similar group that received up to three corticosteroid injections over the course of a year. However, the injection group made more office visits and had more additional procedures during the 12-month follow-up period.
Editorialists commenting on this Annals of Internal Medicine study hypothesize that the lower resource utilization of the PT group may be attributed to patient-clinician interactions that “provide an opportunity for therapists to better address patients’ concerns about their conditions, provide reassurance, or educate patients in self-management.” They go on to say that if further research pinpoints specific inflammatory and non-inflammatory “diagnostic phenotypes” of SIS patients, clinicians could prescribe more targeted therapies.