Corticosteroids are commonly used in total knee arthroplasty (TKA) to reduce pain and prevent nausea. But are the effects of steroids different when administered locally rather than systemically? Hatayama et al. investigate this question in JBJS, where they report on a randomized controlled trial comparing periarticular injection with intravenous (IV) administration of corticosteroids. The authors assessed the drugs’ effects on pain control, the prevention of postoperative nausea, and inflammation and thromboembolism markers following TKA.
The 100 included patients were 50 to 85 years of age and underwent primary, unilateral TKA for osteoarthritis. Fifty patients were randomized to the intravenous group (10 mg dexamethasone IV 1 hour pre- and 24 hours postoperatively, along with periarticular placebo injection during the procedure), and 50 were randomized to the periarticular injection group (a 40-mg injection of triamcinolone acetonide during surgery, along with IV placebo 1 hour pre- and 24 hours postoperatively).
Patients in the periarticular injection group experienced better pain control at 24 hours postoperatively, both at rest and during walking. The antiemetic effect was similar and notable in both groups. The IV group showed a better anti-thromboembolic effect, as measured by prothrombin fragment 1.2 levels, but the incidence of deep venous thrombosis was low overall, each group having only 2 cases.
The authors also reported that, at 24 and 48 hours, interleukin-6 levels did not differ between the groups, while C-reactive protein (CRP) levels were significantly lower in the IV group. In contrast, 1 week after surgery, patients in the periarticular group had a significantly lower CRP. These inflammatory-marker findings lead Hatayama et al. to postulate that “the better [24-hour] pain control in the periarticular injection group was not because of reduced inflammation,” and they note that locally administered corticosteroids directly inhibit signal transmission in nociceptive fibers.
OrthoBuzz occasionally receives posts from guest bloggers. This guest post comes from Impact Science, in response to a recent article in JBJS.
Pain management is an important aspect of postoperative care after posterior spinal fusion for the treatment of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS). Opioid medications, while highly effective and commonly used for postoperative analgesia, have many well-documented adverse effects. Several recent studies have suggested that dexamethasone, a glucocorticoid, is an effective adjunct for postoperative pain management after many adult orthopaedic procedures, but its use after AIS surgery has not been well studied.
Beginning in 2017, doctors at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta added dexamethasone to their postoperative pain control pathway for adolescent spinal-fusion patients. In the October 21, 2020 issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, Fletcher et al. report findings from a cohort study that investigated the postoperative outcomes of 113 patients (median age of 14 years) who underwent posterior spinal fusion between 2015 and 2018. The main outcome of interest—opioid consumption while hospitalized—was determined by converting all postoperative opioids given into morphine milligram equivalents (MME).
Because dexamethasone entered their institution’s standardized pathway for this operation in 2017, it was easy for the authors to divide these patients into two groups; 65 of the study patients did not receive postoperative steroids, while 48 patients were managed with 3 doses of steroids postoperatively. Relative to the former group, the latter group showed a 39.6% decrease in total MME used and a 29.5% decrease in weight-based MME. Patients who received postoperative dexamethasone were also more likely to walk at the time of initial physical therapy evaluation. Notably, the authors found no differences between the groups with regard to wound dihescence or 90-day infection rates—2 complications that have been associated with chronic use of perioperative steroids.
In commenting on these findings, Amy L. McIntosh, MD from Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children writes that she was so impressed that she plans “on adding dexamethasone to our institution’s standardized AIS care pathway.”
Impact Science is a team of highly specialized subject-area experts (Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Medicine & Humanities), who collaborate with authors, societies, libraries, universities, and various other stakeholders for services to enhance research impact. Through research engagement and science communication, Impact Science aims at democratizing science by making research-backed content accessible to the world.
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. Here is a summary of selected findings from randomized studies cited in the January 21, 2015 Specialty Update on adult reconstructive knee surgery:
Minimizing Blood Loss
–A randomized study of 101 patients undergoing total knee arthroplasty (TKA) found that those receiving topical tranexamic acid (TXA) intra-articularly at the end of surgery had less blood loss and better postoperative hemoglobin levels than those who received a placebo.
–A randomized study of 50 TKA patients and 50 people undergoing total hip arthroplasty found that those receiving TXA had a significantly smaller decline in postoperative hemoglobin levels and needed 39% fewer units of transfused blood than a group that received normal saline solution.
–A randomized study of 126 patients who underwent denervation or not after TKA with unresurfaced patellae found that the denervation group had better pain scores at three months and higher satisfaction and better range of motion at two years.
–Two randomized studies evaluated the impact of patellar eversion versus lateral retraction/subluxation for joint exposure. One study (n=117) found no between-group differences in quadriceps strength at one year, and the other (n=66) found no between-group differences in pain scores or flexion at three months and one year.
Most of the implant-design studies summarized in this Specialty Update can be summed up as “no difference.” Specifically,
–Three randomized studies attempting to evaluate high-flexion TKA designs (n=74, n=278, and n=122) caused the authors of the update to suggest that “the intention of providing greater clinical flexion through high-flex arthroplasty designs does not translate to a meaningful difference in patient outcomes.”
–A randomized study of 124 patients found no differences in maximal post-TKA flexion or functional scores between a group that received a bicruciate-substituting implant and one that received a standard posterior-stabilized design.
–A randomized trial of 34 patients who received prostheses with either highly cross-linked polyethylene or conventional polyethylene found no differences in wear-particle number, size, or morphology after one year.
–A 4- to 6.5-year follow-up study of 56 patients who received either mobile or fixed bearings during TKA found that the mobile-bearing group had greater mean range of motion, but there were no between-group differences in satisfaction or functional scores.
Instrumentation and Technique
–A randomized study of 47 patients whose surgeons used either customized cutting blocks or traditional instruments found no differences in clinical outcomes or mean component alignment. Moreover, surgeons abandoned customized blocks in 32% of the cases because of malalignment.
–A randomized study of 129 patients whose surgical approach was either medial parapatellar or subvastus, all of whom were managed with minimally invasive techniques, found no differences in pain, narcotic consumption, functional outcomes, and Knee Society Scores at postoperative times ranging from three days to three months.
Postoperative Care and Pain Management
–A trial among 249 post-TKA patients who received either one-to-one physical therapy (PT), group-based PT, or a monitored home program found no difference in outcomes at 10 weeks and one year.
–A randomized study of 160 post-TKA patients investigating the effect of continuous passive motion (CPM) machines led the study authors to conclude that CPM is neither beneficial nor cost-effective.
–A small randomized study of pain-management protocols found that a “multimodal” approach that included peri-articular injection led to less pain, less narcotic use, and higher satisfaction for up to six weeks after surgery than a patient-controlled analgesia approach.
–A three-way randomized pain-management study of 100 patients led study authors to recommend against posterior capsule injections and to conclude that “a sciatic nerve block [for TKA] has a minimal effect on pain control.”
–A three-way randomized study of 120 TKA patients found that those receiving preoperative dexamethasone and ondansetron had less nausea, shorter hospital stays, and used less narcotic medication than those who received ondansetron alone. “Dexamethasone should be part of a comprehensive total joint arthroplasty protocol,” the study authors concluded.