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 5, 2017 Specialty Update on orthopaedic trauma, selected the five most clinically compelling findings from among the 34 studies summarized in the Specialty Update.
A randomized, sham-controlled clinical trial1 failed to demonstrate improved functional recovery or accelerated radiographic healing with the addition of low-intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS) to the postoperative regimen of fresh tibial fractures.
Two studies support early weight-bearing (WB) after certain operatively managed lower extremity injuries, an allowance that may substantially improve a patient’s early independence. One randomized study2demonstrated that immediate WB after locked intramedullary fixation of tibial fractures is not inferior in union time, complication rates, or early function score when compared with a 6-week period of non-WB. The second randomized trial3 found early WB after select ankle fracture fixation (no syndesmosis or posterior malleolar fixation included) resulted in no increase in complications, fewer elective implant removals, and improved 6-week function, relative to late weight-bearing.
The addition of posterior fixation to anterior fixation for patients with anteroposterior compression type-2 injuries (symphysis disruption, unilateral anterior sacroiliac joint widening) improved radiographic results and led to fewer anterior plate failures.
Less femoral neck shortening occurred with cephalomedullary nail fixation devices (2 mm) than with a side plate and lag screw construct (1 cm) when treating OTA/AO 31-A2 intertrochanteric fractures (unstable, 3 or more parts) in patients ≥55 years of age, although functional outcomes were similar for the two groups.
- Busse JW, Bhandari M, Einhorn TA, Schemitsch E, Heckman JD, Tornetta P 3rd, Leung KS, Heels-Ansdell D, Makosso-Kallyth S, Della Rocca GJ, Jones CB, Guyatt GH; TRUST Investigators writing group. Re-evaluation of low intensity pulsed ultrasound in treatment of tibial fractures (TRUST): randomized clinical trial. BMJ. 2016 ;355:i5351.
- Gross SC, Galos DK, Taormina DP, Crespo A, Egol KA, Tejwani NC. Can tibial shaft fractures bear weight after intramedullary nailing? A randomized controlled trial. J Orthop Trauma. 2016 ;30(7):370–5.
- Dehghan N, McKee MD, Jenkinson RJ, Schemitsch EH, Stas V, Nauth A, Hall JA, Stephen DJ, Kreder HJ. Early weightbearing and range of motion versus non-weightbearing and immobilization after open reduction and internal fixation of unstable ankle fractures: a randomized controlled trial. J Orthop Trauma. 2016 ;30(7):345–52.
In the December 2, 2015 issue of The Journal, Reindl et al. report on the results of a multicenter randomized trial comparing intramedullary (IM) fixation versus sliding hip screws for stabilization of type A2 unstable intertrochanteric fractures. This trial is yet another product of the Canadian Orthopaedic Trauma Society (COTS), which has collaborated on high-quality clinical trials for more than a decade.
There have been more than 20 RCTs comparing intramedullary fixation with sliding hip screws. Many of these trials exclusively investigated stable fracture patterns or included both stable and unstable fractures. These studies generally concluded that nails provide no clear outcome benefits, except perhaps in unstable fractures. Several meta-analyses have also been published that identified no significant difference in clinical or functional outcomes.
Up until now, there has been little dispute with the recommendation that unstable intertrochanteric fractures be fixed with intramedullary implants. While this current trial confirms radiographic advantages to IM fixation (significantly less femoral-neck shortening) after 12 months, Reindl et al. found but no significant functional advantage (in terms of Lower Extremity Measures, Functional Independence Measures, or timed up-and-go tests) with IM fixation in unstable A2 fractures. These findings add more evidence to the claim that IM implants for both stable and unstable patterns are overused in North America.
The question now becomes how many more trials do we need to further make the point? We know that powerful surgeon-behavior influences exist in academic medical centers that continue to use intramedullary implants routinely for intertrochanteric hip fractures (see the 2010 JBJS prognostic study by Forte et al.). Considering the much higher cost of intramedullary nails relative to hip screws, it is high time that these same centers teach appropriate use of IM implants for these fractures so that trainees become facile with both implant types.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD