It’s a generally accepted “fact” that total knee arthroplasty (TKA) ranks among the most significant modern medical advancements. But the October 22, 2015 NEJM published the first rigorously controlled randomized study that “proves” that “fact” by comparing TKA to nonsurgical management.
One hundred patients with moderate-to-severe knee osteoarthritis were randomly assigned to undergo TKA followed by 12 weeks of rigorous nonsurgical treatment, or the nonsurgical treatment alone. Over a 12-month follow-up period, TKA was superior to nonsurgical treatment in terms of pain relief and functional improvement, but it was also associated with a higher number of serious adverse events, including deep-vein thrombosis and infection.
The study authors concluded that “the benefits and harms of the respective treatments underscore the importance of considering patients’ preferences and values during shared decision making about treatment for moderate-to-severe knee osteoarthritis.” JBJS Deputy Editor Jeffrey Katz, MD concurred with that conclusion in an accompanying editorial: “Treatment decisions should be shared between patients and their clinicians and anchored by the probabilities of pain relief and complications and the importance patients attach to these outcomes,” he wrote. “Each patient must weigh these considerations and make the decision that best suits his or her values.”
The Health of America, a new report from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), found that the amounts charged by hospitals for hip- and knee-replacement surgeries in 64 US geographic markets vary wildly within and between markets.
The report focused on hip and knee replacements because those are among the fastest-growing medical interventions in the US. The report cited a June 4, 2014 JBJS study stating that between 1993 and 2009, primary knee replacements more than tripled, and primary hip replacements doubled.
The BCBSA report found that within-market cost variation for knee replacements exceeded $18,701 in 16 of the 64 markets analyzed. Twenty-two of the markets studied had a greater than $17,301 variation for hip replacements. The dubious distinction for highest variation within a market went to Boston, where there was a 313% gap between the lowest- and highest-priced hip replacement surgeries.
Overall, Montgomery, Alabama had the lowest average costs for knee and hip replacement surgeries (about $16,000 each), and New York City had the highest (about $60,000 each).
With ever-growing deductibles and other “cost-shifting” that increases out-of-pocket expenses for patients, it behooves individuals to talk to their doctor and their insurer, and to understand hospital charges as well as possible before agreeing to an elective procedure, orthopaedic or otherwise.
Perhaps more than any other advance in orthopaedic surgery, total joint arthroplasty has improved the lives of millions of patients. Originally introduced in the form of hip replacement, nearly all of the major joints of the musculoskeletal system can now undergo arthroplasty, and total knee arthroplasty has established itself as one of the most successful interventions for reducing pain and improving function and quality of life. All total joint arthroplasties are associated with a risk of failure, and it is believed that, with the exception of the oldest patients, most individuals who undergo an arthroplasty will require a revision at some point during their lifetime. With total knee arthroplasty, advances in implant materials and design as well as operative technique have increased implant longevity and decreased the rate of revision to <5% within ten years.
As is typical of a successful intervention, surgeons who perform total knee arthroplasty recognize the need or opportunity to “push the envelope.” There is great demand for offering knee arthroplasty to younger, more active patients, and, in doing so, it is projected that the number of revision procedures will grow from the current annual incidence of 38,000 up to 270,000 by the year 2030. Thus, understanding the causes of failure will be essential for guiding future strategies.
In this month’s article by Bou Monsef et al., a systematic approach to identifying mechanisms of failure and appropriate treatment protocols for failed total knee arthroplasty are introduced. The authors make the important point that avoiding operative intervention before a diagnosis is made, even in cases of pain with no clear etiology, is essential. Individual discussions on the roles of infection, loosening and component failure, instability, stiffness, patellofemoral complications, and even neuromas are presented and placed in their proper perspective.
Indeed, one of the greatest frustrations in orthopaedic practice is the inability to identify the causative factors for a condition. The failure of a total knee arthroplasty may be associated with one or more contributing factors, including rare and unusual conditions such as the formation of heterotopic bone, the development of complex regional pain syndrome, the occurrence of hemarthrosis, and even hypersensitivity to certain metals. Interestingly, up to 17% of the general population expresses some sensitivity to the metals used in total knee implants such as nickel, chromium, and cobalt.
Failure of total knee arthroplasty can be devastating to the patient, but early diagnosis and careful systematic analysis of the potential etiologies can lead to a favorable outcome. This article provides a clear and concise approach to this problem and is a “must read” for surgeons who perform this operation now and the residents and fellows who will be caring for these patients in the decades to come.
Thomas A. Einhorn, MD, Editor
This week (December 1-6, 2014), 120 people in 23 states are scheduled to receive a hip or knee replacement free of charge. These gifts of pain-free mobility come from Operation Walk USA, a coalition of 85 orthopaedic surgeons that has provided more than $13 million in services to nearly 500 patients since 2010. Patients eligible for Operation Walk USA services are US citizens and permanent residents who do not qualify for government assistance programs but cannot afford the surgery on their own.
Case in point is 50-year-old Army veteran David Chalker, who is scheduled for a bilateral hip replacement this week. Unrelenting and severe hip pain forced Chalker to leave his machinist job, which in turn led to mounting debt and an inability to afford health insurance.
New Albany, Ohio orthopaedist Dr. Adolph Lombardi, Operation Walk USA’s founder, told Reuters that finding hospitals willing to donate space is the biggest barrier to the program’s growth. But thanks to additional non-physician volunteers such as nurses, technicians, and physical therapists, pre- and post-operation services are also free for patients. And device manufacturers donate the implants.
According to a recent study in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, women who take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for at least 6 months after a total hip or knee replacement may cut the risk of revision surgery by almost 40%. This potential reduction in revision rate becomes even more impressive when one considers estimates that put the number of knee replacements in the US at close to 3.5 million annually by the year 2030.
The study, which compared joint-replacement outcomes in 2,700 female HRT users with outcomes in 8,100 matched nonusers, found no difference in revision rates relative to HRT use before surgery.
Elena Losina, PhD., JBJS deputy editor for methodology and biostatistics, called this study “well designed and executed” in an article in Arthritis Today. But she was quick to add that “to consider these results more definitively in clinical practice, they need to be confirmed and reproduced in a multicenter randomized controlled trial.”
With 840 scientific presentations, 560 posters, and 200 instructional course lectures, even OrthoBuzz couldn’t comprehensively summarize the 2014 AAOS Annual Meeting in New Orleans. But here’s a small random sampling of findings reported at the meeting that you might find interesting. Please remember that these data have not appeared in peer-reviewed journals and should be considered preliminary.
TENS for Low Back Pain Could Save Medicare Nearly a Half-Billion Dollars
If all of its estimated 1.5 million beneficiaries with chronic low back pain were treated with TENS—transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation—Medicare could save about $417 million in annual treatment costs, said Michael Minshall, MPH (paper #474). The figures are based partly on published research showing that TENS patients use significantly fewer health care resources (hospital and office visits, imaging, physical therapy, and surgery) than those receiving other treatments.
Allografts Fail Three Times More Frequently than Autografts in Primary ACL Reconstruction
A prospective randomized trial of 99 ACL reconstruction patients in their twenties revealed a 10-year 26.5% failure rate when tibialis posterior tendon allografts were used, compared with an 8.5% failure rate for hamstring autografts. Presenter Craig Bottoni, MD (paper # 462) said both groups received the same fixation technique and the same postoperative rehab program by physical therapists who were blinded to the treatment allocation.
Tranexamic Acid Cuts Transfusion Rates during TJA without Boosting VTEs
Scott Wingerter, MD (paper #1) presented data from Washington University School of Medicine (WUSM) showing that transfusion rates declined substantially during primary and revision hip and knee replacement procedures after tranexamic acid began being used routinely at WUSM. The incidence of venous thromboembolism was also lower in the group that received tranexamic acid, although that difference was not statistically significant.
Repeat Skin Antisepsis May Reduce Surgical Site Infections
A randomized, prospective study of nearly 600 patients undergoing total joint replacement found that those who received additional skin antisepsis with an iodine povacrylex/alcohol combination after surgical draping but before incise draping were far less likely to experience a superficial surgical site infection than those who received standard skin preparation with chlorhexidine, alcohol, and betadine. Presenter Tiffany Morrison, MS (paper # 49) also noted a non-significant difference in rates of skin blistering between the two groups.