Lower-extremity joint replacement is quite well-advanced, thanks to a high incidence of disabling osteoarthritis and a 40-plus-year history of development in hip and knee prostheses. Additionally, during the last 5 to 10 years, we have made progress in prosthetic design and reliable surgical techniques for the ankle. In the upper extremity, we have a similar 4-decade development history with anatomic shoulder replacement and now 10-plus years with increasingly reliable reverse total shoulder arthroplasty.
However, techniques for elbow and wrist arthroplasty have been much slower to develop, due to lower incidence of pathology, the unique functional demands on these joints, and prosthetic-design and fixation issues. Still, the Conrad-Morrey family of implants has provided reliable elbow prostheses for more than 20 years. Meanwhile, the indications for elbow arthroplasty have narrowed to inflammatory arthritis and distal humeral fractures and nonunions in patients with lower functional demands. Unfortunately, failure of fixation, infection, and bone resorption do occur after primary elbow arthroplasty; consequently, a small but growing number of patients face revision elbow arthroplasty.
In the November 18, 2020 issue of The Journal, Burnier et al. report the results of revision elbow arthroplasty using a proximal ulnar allograft-prosthetic composite to compensate for missing ulnar bone stock and triceps tendon insufficiency. They clearly explain the surgical technique and report their results among a 10-patient cohort, including details of the 6 cases that required reoperation.
JBJS will continue reporting results of revision joint arthroplasty because members of the orthopaedic community have to manage these very complex cases, and this type of information is helpful to guide treatment decisions and patient expectations. Equally important is the positive impact this information has on further development of surgical techniques and prosthetic designs. Close examination of failure is the fuel for innovative improvement.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
In the October 7, 2020 issue of The Journal, Du et al. report on a multicenter database-derived cohort of 167 patients with early-onset scoliosis treated with traditional growing rods and followed for ≥2 years after “final” fusion. These researchers report that 19% of those patients required a repeat surgery following fusion, most commonly for surgical-site infection and anchor-site failure. Multivariate analysis of risk factors for reoperation following final fusion revealed the following:
- Curve progression requiring revision surgery during the spine-lengthening process
- The number of levels spanned with the growing rods
- The duration of treatment
Du et al. report these results without spin in a way that is most useful for surgeons who are considering using these implants in their armamentarium. This is the way all new technology, especially complex advances in surgical care, should be reported.
Orthopaedic implants and instruments continue to evolve, almost always toward more sophisticated digital technology, complex engineering, and more numerous moving parts. The advent of magnetic growing rods for treating early-onset scoliosis is just one example. Often such advances are reported on by surgeons who are conflicted by personal and financial interests in the technology. This leads to all manner of potential bias–indication bias, reporting bias, selection bias, and detection bias to name just a few. Readers should evaluate this type of data with a high degree of suspicion.
What we need throughout orthopaedics are more multicenter, multisurgeon, “deconflicted” cohort studies and clinical trials. When such rigorous studies are conducted to investigate “high-tech” growing rods in patients with early-onset scoliosis, I will not be surprised if researchers find the same risk factors for reoperation after fusion that Du et al. found.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
With contemporary teaching and advanced-imaging diagnostic protocols, the incidence of advanced wrist arthritis related to scaphoid nonunion and carpal instability seems to be decreasing. When this condition does present, the longstanding debate about treatment pits preserving the carpal bone mass with a 4-corner arthrodesis (FCA) against resecting the proximal row of carpal bones (proximal row carpectomy, or PRC) to provide better motion. At issue have been concerns about the durability and reoperation rates for these two treatment approaches.
In the June 17, 2020 issue of The Journal, Garcia et al. tap into the Veterans Health Administration data warehouse to help clarify this treatment dilemma. The authors identified 1,168 patients with stage-II SLAC (scapholunate advanced collapse) or SNAC (scaphoid nonunion advanced collapse) patterns of wrist arthritis. The outcomes of interest were subsequent conversion to total wrist arthrodesis and secondary surgical procedures after FCA and PRC.
Using propensity score analysis, the authors established matched cohorts of 251 cases of each procedure. The rate of conversion to total wrist arthrodesis was virtually identical in both matched groups, but far fewer patients who underwent FCA avoided a subsequent nonarthrodesis operation compared with those who underwent PRC (83.5% vs 99.7%, respectively).
Based on these findings and the evidence in previously published literature, the authors say, “We believe that PRC may be preferable to FCA in patients with symptomatic stage-II SLAC/SNAC wrist arthritis.” I think this choice should always be the result of shared decision making that itemizes the pros and cons of both procedures—especially taking into account patient preferences related to expected functional outcomes.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
Orthopaedic surgeons work hard to find good alternatives to total hip arthroplasty (THA) in patients <50 years old. That’s because the high functional demands and longer remaining lifespan in these patients can result in excessive wear of the bearing surfaces and loosening of the components—both of which have been documented in multiple publications. But what happens when THA is the most viable solution for a posttraumatic or congenital hip problem in a very young patient because arthrodesis or other osteotomies are not feasible?
In the March 18, 2020 issue of The Journal, Pallante et al. report medium-term outcomes of THA in 78 patients who were ≤20 years of age at the time of surgery, with follow-ups ranging from 2 to 18 years. The findings included the following:
- 10-year survivorship for reoperation of 95.0%
- 10-year survivorship for revision of 97.2%
- 10-year survivorship for complications of 89.5%
Overall, the linear articular wear averaged 0.019 mm/yr in the ceramic-on-ceramic, ceramic-on-highly cross-linked polyethylene, and metal-on-highly cross-linked polyethylene bearings studied, and the average modified Harris hip score in the cohort was 92.
However, despite these impressive clinical and survivorship outcomes, I advise orthopaedists not to lower their resistance to performing THA on these very young patients, many of whom present with hip problems caused by deforming conditions such as Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. We really need 30 to 40 years of outcome data to truly understand what happens with function, revision rates, and wear characteristics in this population. Having said that, I am confident that this group from Mayo will continue reporting on this patient cohort at 5- to 10-year intervals, so that the worldwide orthopaedic community can keep learning from this experience.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
In addition to the Pearl Diver-based retrospective study by Arshi et al. on one-year complications after outpatient knee replacement, the December 6, 2017 issue of JBJS contains a NSQIP-based retrospective study by Basques et al. that compares 30-day adverse events and readmissions among 1,236 patients who underwent same-day-discharge hip or knee (total or unicompartmental) arthroplasty with an equal number of propensity score-matched patients who were discharged at least 1 calendar day after the procedure.
When analyzing all three procedures together, the authors found no overall between-group differences in the rates of any adverse event (severe or minor) or readmission. However, when authors analyzed individual adverse events, the same-day group had decreased thromboembolic events and increased 30-day reoperations compared to inpatients. Analysis of individual procedures revealed an increased 30-day reoperation rate for same-day total knee arthroplasty (TKA), compared with inpatient TKA. Overall, infection was the most common reason for reoperation and readmission following same-day procedures.
As with the Arshi et al. study, the limitations of the database prevented these authors from accounting for physician or hospital volume. However, they did identify several preoperative patient characteristics that increased the risk of 30-day readmission among same-day patients, and from those findings Basques et al. concluded that “obese patients, older patients [≥85 years of age], and those with diabetes mellitus may not be appropriate candidates for same-day procedures.”
Here’s one thing about which medical studies have been nearly unanimous: Smoking is a health hazard by any measure. In the February 15, 2017 edition of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, Tischler et al. put some hard numbers on the risk of smoking for those undergoing total joint arthroplasty (TJA).
After controlling for confounding factors, the authors of the Level III prognostic study found that:
- Current smokers have a significantly increased risk of reoperation for infection within 90 days of TJA compared with nonsmokers.
- The amount one has smoked, regardless of current smoking status, significantly contributed to increased risk of unplanned nonoperative readmission.
In a commentary on the Tischler et al. study, William, G. Hamilton, MD says, “…as physicians, we should work cooperatively with our patients to enhance outcomes by attempting to reduce these modifiable risk factors. We can educate patients and can suggest smoking cessation programs and weight loss regimens that may not only improve the risk profile during the surgical episode, but also improve the patients’ overall health.”