Obesity is one of the most serious public health problems in the 21st century, and body weight is becoming an important consideration in orthopaedic procedures, especially joint arthroplasty. Two new studies in the February 3, 2016 Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery illuminate the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and hip-arthroplasty outcomes.
In a prognostic study based on registry data (21,361 consecutive hip replacements), Wagner et al. analyzed postsurgical complications and reoperations using BMI as a continuous variable. They found strong associations between increasing BMI and increasing rates of reoperation, implant revision or removal, early hip dislocation, and both superficial and deep infections. Although researchers are just starting to examine the efficacy of preoperative interventions to reduce BMI (see related OrthoBuzz post), Wagner et al. suggest that “collaborative interventions between care providers and patients may be undertaken to modify risk factors, such as BMI, before elective procedures.” A commentary on this study lauds the authors for analyzing BMI with a “dose-response” perspective, but the commentators note that “BMI neither remains constant nor follows a predictable trend over time.”
In a separate therapeutic study by Issa et al., clinical and patient-reported outcomes of primary THA were lower in super-obese patients (BMI ≥ 50 kg/m2) than in matched patients with normal BMI (<30 kg/m2). Specifically, after a mean follow-up of six years, compared with the normal-BMI group, the super-obese group had:
- A 4.5 times higher odds ratio (OR) of undergoing a revision
- A 7.7 times higher OR of surgical complications, including superficial and deep infections
- Significantly lower mean values on the Harris hip score, the physical and mental components of the SF-36, and the UCLA activity score.
Despite these between-group findings, super-obese patients still experienced significant clinical improvements compared with their preoperative status. However, they saw an average of 2.5 previous surgeons who refused to perform the procedure prior to being referred to the authors.
The two numbers that you’ll want to remember from the computer model-based cost-effectiveness study by McLawhorn et al. in the January 20, 2016 Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery are $13,910 and $100,000. The first number is an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER). Here, it’s the estimated added cost per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) for morbidly obese patients (BMI ≥35 kg/m2) with end-stage knee osteoarthritis who undergo bariatric surgery two years prior to total knee arthroplasty (TKA), compared with similar patients who undergo immediate TKA.
The $100,000 is the threshold “willingness to pay” (WTP) that the authors used in their evaluation. Willingness to pay reflects the amount society and healthcare payers such as Medicare and private insurers are willing to pay for a patient to accrue one year lived in perfect health.
Here’s another way to view these findings: Morbidly obese patients who undergo TKA are at increased risk for wound-healing problems, superficial and deep infections, early revision, and poor function. The authors estimated that if bariatric surgery reduces the TKA risks in these patients by at least 16%, on average, the combination of bariatric surgery followed by TKA is more cost-effective than immediate TKA alone.
Because the ICER was much less than the WTP in this model, the authors conclude that “bariatric surgery prior to total knee arthroplasty may be a cost-effective option for improving outcomes in motivated patients with a BMI of ≥35 kg/m2 with end-stage knee osteoarthritis.” However, they are quick to add that “decision modeling cannot simulate reality for every clinical situation.” While this rigorously developed model may provide a decision-making framework for surgeons and policymakers, the authors say, “this approach may be impractical for an individual patient…desiring immediate symptomatic relief from knee osteoarthritis.”
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have concluded that fibrin, a protein involved in blood clotting and found abundantly around the site of new bone fractures, impedes rather than supports fracture healing.
Their recent study in The Journal of Clinical Investigation looked at mice that had experimentally induced deficits in either fibrin production or fibrin clearance. Researchers found normal fracture repair in mice without fibrin and impaired vascularization and fracture healing in mice with inhibited fibrin clearance. They also saw increased heterotopic ossification in the mice unable to remove fibrin.
In a Vanderbilt press release, study coauthor Jonathan Schoenecker, MD, commented that “any condition associated with vascular disease and thrombosis will impair fracture healing.” These findings, he suggested, may explain why obesity, diabetes, smoking, and old age—all of which are associated with impaired fibrin clearance—are also associated with impaired fracture healing. Dr. Schoenecker went on to speculate that anti-clotting drugs commonly used to treat cardiovascular conditions may find new applications in enhancing fracture repair.
The relationships between body weight and joint replacement are debated often in the orthopaedic community. Some surgeons are so concerned about perioperative complications related to obesity that they recommend delaying arthroplasty in obese patients until weight loss is achieved.
But what are the likelihood and implications of weight changes after joint replacement? For those answers, in the June 3, 2015 edition of JBJS, Ast et al. tracked differences in body mass index (BMI) among nearly 7,000 patients for two years after total hip arthroplasty (THA) or total knee arthroplasty (TKA). Establishing a 5% BMI change as “clinically meaningful,” the researchers found that:
- Most patients (73% of those undergoing THA and 69% of those undergoing TKA) experienced no weight change.
- Female patients, patients with a higher preoperative BMI, and those undergoing TKA were most likely to lose weight after surgery.
- Weight loss was associated with improved clinical outcomes after THA, but not after TKA. However, weight gain in general was associated with inferior clinical outcomes.
- Those with better preoperative functional status were less likely to gain weight after THA or TKA.
Countering conventional wisdom that weight loss after total joint arthroplasty is unlikely, Ast. Et al. emphasize that “obese patients who undergo total joint arthroplasty are more likely than non-obese patients to lose weight after surgery.”
The latest market report from Transparency Market Research predicts that the global orthobiologics market will grow at a compound annual rate of nearly 6% over the next 5 years. In 2012, the orthobiologics market was worth $3.7 billion, and it is expected to hit $5.5 billion by the end of 2019. What will drive the growth? The 50+ population is expected to almost double by 2020, and increases in obesity and sports injuries will spur market growth. Technical improvements and a trend away from the use of autografts and allografts will also drive interest in orthobiologics.