For the last 6 years, JBJS has participated in 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 May 2020, JBJS and OrthoBuzz readers will have open access to the JOSPT article titled “Athletes with Bone-Patellar Tendon-Bone Autograft for ACL Reconstruction Were Slower to Meet Rehabilitation Milestones and Return-to-Sport Criteria than Athletes with Hamstring Tendon Autograft or Soft Tissue Allograft.”
Although the title reveals the findings of this retrospective cohort study, the authors emphasize that “athletes in the allograft and HT groups may be at higher risk of sustaining another knee injury when they return to sport…than those in the BPTB group.” Also, all 79 participants in the study were athletes planning to return to level 1 or 2 sporting activities, so these findings may not be generalizable to all athletes.
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.
The most common complication arthroplasty surgeons worry about after total knee arthroplasty (TKA) is stiffness, which occurs in a reported 15.98% of cases.1 The notion of TKA patients doing their postoperative physical therapy (PT) on their own at home with a “virtual avatar” gives me pause because it might increase the risk of stiffness. However, if patients could save money, make satisfactory progress in the comfort of their own home, and not experience undue knee stiffness, virtual PT technology would be worth it.
In the January 15, 2020 issue of The Journal, Bettger et al. report on a randomized controlled trial that compared virtual to traditional PT after TKA. The authors hypothesized that virtual PT would cost less and would be clinically noninferior to traditional PT. The FDA-approved Virtual Exercise Rehabilitation Assistant (VERA) studied in this trial uses 3-D technology to track patient movement and an avatar (digitally simulated coach) to assist patients through PT exercises. Virtual PT technology like this not only has the potential to reduce costs (particularly travel costs incurred by patients who live in rural areas), but also to help address current and expected therapist shortages.
There were 143 patients in the virtual PT group and 144 in the traditional PT group. Patients randomized to virtual PT had the technology set up in their home prior to surgery. In addition to avatar-assisted home exercises, virtual PT patients had weekly “video visits” with a human therapist.
Bettger et al. found the median 12-week costs for virtual and traditional PT to be $1,050 and $2,805, respectively. Additionally, at 6 weeks, virtual PT was found to be noninferior to traditional PT in terms of patient outcome measures, knee range of motion, and gait speed. At 12 weeks, virtual PT was found to be noninferior to usual care in terms of pain and hospital readmissions.
I am relieved that virtual PT has the potential to provide cost savings, without apparently increasing the risk of knee stiffness. The cost savings and at-home convenience may be especially important for elderly TKA patients who are living on a fixed income and for whom transportation issues are often vexing. I hope technology like VERA continues to contribute to improved patient satisfaction and easier access to PT.
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.
- Can administrative data be used to analyze complications following total joint arthroplasty? Clair AJ, et al. J Arthroplasty, 2015;30(9 Suppl):17-20. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.arth.2015.01.060
Every month, JBJS publishes 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 OrthoBuzz summaries of these “What’s New” articles. This month, author Michael J. Taunton, MD selected the 5 most clinically compelling findings from the more than 130 studies summarized in the January 15, 2020 “What’s New in Adult Reconstructive Knee Surgery.”
Unicompartmental Knee Arthroplasty (UKA)
—A prospective cohort study of 1,000 Oxford cementless UKAs indicated by standard Kozinn and Scott criteria found that revision-free survivorship at 10 years was 97%. Progression of lateral osteoarthritis and dislocation of the bearing were the most common reasons for revision.1
—Authors of a double-blinded, prospective, randomized study assigned 60 primary total knee arthroplasty (TKA) patients to receive either a continuous adductor canal block or a single-injection adductor canal block with adjuvant agents. They found no between-group differences in pain scores up to 42 hours postoperatively.2
Post-TKA Physical Therapy (PT)
—A prospective, randomized, noninferiority trial demonstrated that 290 post-TKA patients who were randomized to either outpatient PT, unsupervised web-based PT at home, or unsupervised printed-instruction-based PT at home had no difference in knee range of motion or in patient-reported outcomes at 4 to 6 weeks or 6 months postoperatively.3
—In a retrospective review of 29,695 total joint arthroplasties, preoperative penicillin allergy testing led to a 1.19% higher rate of infection-free survival at 10 years, principally by allowing more routine use of the prophylactic antibiotic cefazolin.4
—A retrospective case series found that patients undergoing revision TKA at an age of < 50 years had a survivorship free of re-revision of 66% at 10 years. Regardless of the reason for revision, this population also had a higher risk of mortality than the general population at 10 years.5
- Campi S, Pandit H, Hooper G, Snell D, Jenkins C, Dodd CAF, et al. Ten-year survival and seven-year functional results of cementless Oxford unicompartmental knee replacement: A prospective consecutive series of our first 1000 cases. Knee. 2018 Dec;25(6):1231-7. Epub 2018/08/29.
- Turner JD, Dobson SW, Henshaw DS, Edwards CJ, Weller RS, Reynolds JW, et al. Single-Injection Adductor Canal Block With Multiple Adjuvants Provides Equivalent Analgesia When Compared With Continuous Adductor Canal Blockade for Primary Total Knee Arthroplasty: A Double-Blinded, Randomized, Controlled, Equivalency Trial. J Arthroplasty. 2018 Oct;33(10):3160-6 e1. Epub 2018/06/16.
- Fleischman AN, Crizer MP, Tarabichi M, Smith S, Rothman RH, Lonner JH, et al. 2018 John N. Insall Award: Recovery of Knee Flexion With Unsupervised Home Exercise Is Not Inferior to Outpatient Physical Therapy After TKA: A Randomized Trial. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2019 Jan;477(1):60-9. Epub 2019/02/23.
- Wyles CC, Hevesi M, Osmon DR, Park MA, Habermann EB, Lewallen DG, et al. 2019 John Charnley Award: Increased risk of prosthetic joint infection following primary total knee and hip arthroplasty with the use of alternative antibiotics to cefazolin: the value of allergy testing for antibiotic prophylaxis. Bone Joint J. 2019 Jun;101-B(6_Supple_B):9-15. Epub 2019/05/31.
- Chalmers BP, Pallante GD, Sierra RJ, Lewallen DG, Pagnano MW, Trousdale RT. Contemporary Revision Total Knee Arthroplasty in Patients Younger Than 50 Years: 1 in 3 Risk of Re-Revision by 10 Years. J Arthroplasty. 2019 Jul;34(7S):S266-S70. Epub 2019/03/03.
OrthoBuzz occasionally receives posts from guest bloggers. In response to a recent study in Arthritis Care & Research, the following commentary comes from Jeffrey B. Stambough, MD.
As orthopaedic surgeons, we share a collective objective to help patients improve function while minimizing pain. When patients come to our office for a new clinical visit for knee osteoarthritis (OA), we spend time getting to know them and gathering information about their activities, limitations, and functional goals. We balance this patient-reported information with discrete data points, such as weight, range-of-motion restrictions, and radiographic disease classification. Based on the symptom duration and other factors, most patients are not candidates for a knee replacement at this first visit. However, despite the publication of clinical practice guidelines for the nonoperative management of knee OA in 2008, with an update in 2013, significant variation exists in how orthopaedists treat these patients.
This guideline–practice disconnect is emphasized in findings from a recent study in Arthritis Care & Research that examined nonoperative knee OA management practices during clinic visits between 2007 and 2015. The authors found that the overall prescription of NSAID and opioid medications increased 2- and 3-fold, respectively, over that time, while recommendations for lifestyle interventions, self-directed activity, and physical therapy decreased by about 50%.
To me, the most troubling finding from this study is the sharp increase in narcotic prescriptions, because recent evidence demonstrates that narcotics do not effectively treat arthritis pain. Moreover, for patients who go on to arthroplasty, recent studies have found that preoperative opioid use portends worse postsurgical outcomes in terms of higher revision rates, worse function scores, and decreased knee motion.
The findings from this study also speak to a larger societal issue for doctors and patients alike: the desire for a “quick fix.” Despite the time pressure from increasing EHR documentation burdens, dwindling reimbursements, or lack of local resources, we owe it to our patients to counsel them on lifestyle modifications and self-management strategies to help them stay mobile, lose weight (if necessary), and take charge of their joint health. As orthopaedic surgeons, we must continue to strive to de-emphasize opioid pain medication when treating knee OA patients and support them in a holistic manner to ensure their overall health and the function and longevity of their native knee joint.
Jeffrey B. Stambough, MD is an orthopaedic hip and knee surgeon, an assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and a member of the JBJS Social Media Advisory Board.
OrthoBuzz occasionally receives posts from guest bloggers. In response to a recent BMJ study, the following commentary comes from Matthew R. Schmitz, MD, FAOA.
Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) syndrome continues to be a hot topic in the orthopaedic community. The first two decades of this century have seen huge increases in the number of hip arthroscopies performed in the US and UK,1,2 most of those to treat FAI. In the February 7, 2019 issue of BMJ, Palmer et al., reporting on behalf of the Femoroacetabular Impingement Trial (FAIT), published preliminary findings from a multicenter randomized controlled trial comparing arthroscopic hip surgery to activity modification and physiotherapy for symptomatic FAI.3
The trial randomized 222 patients with a clinical diagnosis of FAI into each cohort (110 in the physiotherapy group and 112 in the arthroscopy group). Follow-up assessments were performed by clinicians blinded to the treatment arm, and attempts were made to standardize both interventions. The participants will eventually be followed for 3 years, but this early report evaluated outcomes 8 months after randomization, with follow-up data available for >80% of patients in both groups.
Baseline characteristics with regard to demographics, radiographic findings, and clinical measurements were similar between the two groups. After adjusting for multiple potential confounders, the authors found that the mean Hip Outcomes Score Activities of Daily Living (HOS ADL) was 10 points higher in the arthroscopy group than in the physiotherapy group, exceeding the prespecified minimum clinically important difference (MCID) of 9 points. The MCID was reached in 51% of surgical patients compared to 32% in the therapy cohort. In addition, the patient acceptable symptomatic state (PASS)—defined as a HOS ADL ≥87 points—was achieved in 48% of surgical patients and only 19% of therapy patients. Relative to the physiotherapy group, the arthroscopic group also had better hip flexion and superior results in a variety of commonly used hip patient-reported outcomes scores.
The 8-month data from this study show that there is a real improvement in patient function and reported outcomes from arthroscopic management for FAI. It will be important, however, to follow these patients for the entire 3 years of the FAIT study to show whether these improvements persist. It should also be emphasized that only half of the patients treated with surgical management achieved MCID at the 8-month point. That finding supports what I tell patients in my young-adult hip-preservation clinics, which seems relevant as baseball season starts: There are rarely any home runs in arthroscopic hip surgery. There are mainly singles and doubles that we hope to stretch into doubles and triples. Still, it appears that even those base hits with arthroscopic surgery are better than the physiotherapy alternative—at least in the early innings of the game.
Matthew R. Schmitz, MD, FAOA is an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in adolescent sports and young adult hip preservation at the San Antonio Military Medical Center in San Antonio, TX. He is also a member of the JBJS Social Media Advisory Board.
- Maradit Kremers H, Schilz SR, Van Houten HK et al. Trends in Utilization and Outcomes of Hip Arthrocopy in the United States Between 2005 and 2013. J Arthroplasty 2017; 32:750-5.
- Palmer AJ, Malak TT, Broomfield J, et al. Past and projected temporal trends in arthroscopic hip surgery in England between 2002 and 2018. BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med 2016;2:e000082
- Palmer AJ, Gupta VA, Fernquest S, et al. Arthroscopic hip surgery compared with physiotherapy and activity modification for the treatment of symptomatic femoroacetabular impingement: multicenter randomized controlled trial. BMJ 2019; 364:l185
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 August 2018, JBJS and OrthoBuzz readers will have open access to the JOSPT article titled “Impact of Risk Adjustment on Provider Ranking for Patients With Low Back Pain Receiving Physical Therapy.”
The authors’ findings confirmed their hypothesis that robust risk adjustment is essential for objective comparison of patient-reported outcomes and for accurately reflecting quality of care among patients treated for low back pain.
OrthoBuzz occasionally receives posts from guest bloggers. This guest post comes from Matthew Herring, MD, in response to a recent study in JBJS.
Postoperative immobilization after internal fixation of fractures is common practice. However, immobilization after locked volar plate fixation of distal radial fractures may actually thwart our patients’ rehabilitation—at least in the short term. So suggest the findings from Watson et al. in the July 5, 2018 issue of JBJS.
The authors randomized 133 patients who underwent locked volar plate fixation of distal radial fractures to 1, 3, or 6 weeks of postoperative immobilization. All patients were placed into volar splints postoperatively. After 1 week, splints were removed entirely or converted to short-arm circumferential casts based on the patient’s allocation. All patients started physical therapy within 3 days of definitive splint or cast removal.
Outcomes were evaluated at 6, 12, and 26 weeks and included patient-reported measures (PRWE, VAS pain scores, and DASH), active wrist range of motion, and postoperative complications. Six weeks following surgery, the results favored 1 or 3 weeks of immobilization over 6 weeks of casting in terms of improved patient-reported outcomes and objective wrist range of motion. However, those between-group differences disappeared at 12 and 26 weeks of follow-up. No significant differences were found in complication rates between the 3 groups.
For me, the primary message of this article is that early mobilization after distal radial fracture fixation offers improved short-term outcomes with little or no risk of adverse effects. For most patients, a major goal of fracture treatment is to restore normal function as quickly as possible. With early mobilization, patients reported less pain and less disability, and they demonstrated greater range of motion at 6 weeks.
However, the quick restoration of function must be done safely and without complications. In this cohort, 6 patients lost fracture reduction—5 in the 1-week immobilization group and 1 in the 6-week group. While that difference was not statistically significant, the study was not sufficiently powered to detect that difference. A quick power analysis, assuming an anticipated 11% loss-of-reduction rate as seen in the 1-week group and a 2% rate as seen in the 6-week group, estimates that 234 patients would be needed to confidently avoid a type II error when analyzing loss of reduction.
Translating findings like these into practice constitutes the art of medicine. It is probably safe, and perhaps even beneficial, to allow early mobilization of distal radial fractures treated with volar locking plates. However, there is probably a subset of patients who are at risk for losing reduction, and therefore it may be prudent to have a low threshold for keeping certain patients casted for a longer duration. The orthopaedist who extends cast immobilization beyond 3 weeks can take comfort in the findings that reported outcomes and range of motion in the 6-week-immobilization group quickly caught up with the results of the early-mobilization cohorts by 12 weeks after surgery.
Matthew Herring, MD is a fellow in orthopaedic trauma at the University of California, San Francisco and a member of the JBJS Social Media Advisory Board.
Few things are more disheartening to an orthopaedic surgeon than taking a patient back into the operating suite to treat a failure of fixation. In part, that’s because we realize that the chances of obtaining stable fixation, especially in elderly patients with poor bone density, are diminished with the second attempt. We are additionally cognizant of the risks (again, most significant in the elderly) to cardiopulmonary function with a second procedure shortly after the initial one.
These concerns have led us historically to instruct patients to limit weight bearing for 4 to 6 weeks after hip-fracture surgery. On the other hand, we have seen evidence in cohort studies to suggest that instructing elderly patients with proximal femur fractures to bear weight “as tolerated” after surgery is safe and does not increase the risk of fixation failure.
In the June 6, 2018 issue of The Journal, Kammerlander et al. demonstrate that 16 cognitively unimpaired elderly patients with a proximal femur fracture were unable to limit postoperative weight bearing to ≤20 kg on their surgically treated limb—despite 5 training sessions with a physiotherapist focused on how to do so. In fact, during gait analysis, 69% of these elderly patients exceeded the specified load by more than twofold, as measured with insole force sensors. This inability to restrict weight bearing is probably related to balance and lower-extremity strength issues in older patients, but it may be challenging for people of any age to estimate and regulate how much weight they are placing on an injured lower limb.
With this and other recent evidence, we should instruct most elderly patients with these injuries to bear weight as comfort allows and prescribe correspondingly active physical therapy. As surgeons, we should focus our efforts on the quality and precision of fracture reduction and placement of surgical implants. This will lead to higher patient, family, and physical-therapist satisfaction and pave the way for a more active postoperative rehabilitation period and better longer-term outcomes.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
Medical economics has progressed to the point where musculoskeletal physicians and surgeons cannot ignore the financial implications of their decisions. Unfortunately, in most practice locations it is difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain the downstream costs to patients and insurers of our postsurgical orders for imaging, laboratory testing, and physical therapy (PT). In the April 18, 2018 issue of The Journal, Egol et al. present results from a well-designed and adequately powered randomized trial of outcomes after patients with minimally or nondisplaced radial head or neck fractures were referred either to outpatient PT or to a home exercise program focused on elbow motion.
At all follow-up time points (from 6 weeks to an average of 16.6 months), the authors found that patients receiving formal PT had DASH scores and time to clinical healing that were no better than the outcomes of those following the home exercise program. In fact, the study showed that after 6 weeks, patients following the home exercise program had a quicker improvement in DASH scores than those in the PT group.
The minor limitations with this study design (such as the potential for clinicians measuring elbow motion becoming aware of the treatment arm to which the patient was assigned) should not prevent us from implementing these findings immediately into practice. Each patient going to physical therapy in this scenario would have cost the healthcare system an estimated $800 to $2,400.
I wonder how many other pre- and postsurgical decisions that we routinely make would change if we had similar investigations into the value of ordering postoperative hemoglobin levels, surgical treatment of minimally displaced distal fibular fractures, routine postoperative radiographs for uncomplicated hand and wrist fractures, and PT after routine carpal tunnel release. These are just some of the reflexive decisions we make on a daily basis that probably have little to no value when it comes to patient outcomes. Whenever possible, we need to think about the downstream costs of such decisions and support the appropriate scientific evaluation of these commonly accepted, but possibly misguided, practices.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD