Many people predicted that the mandatory “bundling” of payments for knee and hip arthroplasty by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that began on April 1, 2016 in several US metropolitan areas would lead to “cherry-picking” and ”lemon-dropping.” In other words, hospitals and surgeons wouldn’t take on more complex and sicker patients for joint replacement for fear that the bundled payment would be insufficient (lemon-dropping), and would instead select the healthier patients (cherry-picking). See related OrthoBuzz post.
In the February 19, 2020 issue of The Journal, Humbyrd et al. compare the characteristics of patients who underwent hip and knee replacement (HKR) from April to December 2015 with those of HKR patients during the same period in 2016, after CMS mandated the bundled-payment program in 67 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). The patients were matched so that those treated in bundled and non-bundled settings had similar socioeconomic backgrounds.
The matched groups included 12,388 HKR episodes in 40 bundled MSAs and 20,288 HKRs in 115 nonbundled MSAs. The authors also evaluated pre- and post-policy case-mix changes among 1,549 hip hemiarthroplasties, which are not subject to bundling, in the bundled MSAs.
Among patients who underwent HKR, Humbyrd et al. found no significant differences in patient characteristics—including race, dual Medicare-Medicaid eligibility, tobacco use, obesity, diabetes, and Charlson Comorbidity Index (CCI)—after the bundled-payment policy was implemented. Also, they found that patients in bundled MSAs undergoing hemiarthroplasty had significantly higher CCI values and were more likely to have diabetes than those who underwent HKR. This suggests that some surgeons opt for hemiarthroplasty over total hip replacement in less-healthy patients to avoid treating such patients under a bundled program.
From the MSA perspective, these results suggest that cherry picking and lemon dropping are not occurring in the short term. But we would do well as a profession to ensure that those controversial patient-selection practices are not happening at the individual surgeon level, and that the short-term results demonstrated here by Humbyrd et al. persist over the longer term. Even our sickest joint replacement patients deserve the best surgical care.
Matthew R. Schmitz, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media
One of my residency mentors always stressed that orthopaedic surgeons should be “masters of musculoskeletal anatomy.” During his first lecture each July, he would grill the junior residents on muscle origins and insertions, along with innervations. Knowing safe surgical planes helps us avoid complications from neural or vascular injury and increases the likelihood of a successful orthopaedic procedure. With the increased popularity of the direct anterior approach (DAA) for total hip arthroplasty (THA), it is crucial that orthopaedists understand the anatomical implications of that technique.
One key to a successful DAA hip replacement is adequate visualization, which is aided by retractors. However, malpositioned retractors can cause femoral nerve palsy, a potentially serious neurological complication that can delay postoperative rehabilitation. In the January 15, 2020 issue of The Journal, Yoshino et al. report on a cadaveric study that quantifies the distance between the femoral nerve and the acetabular rim at varying points along the rim. Knowing these precise distances could help surgeons make safer decisions about where—and where not—to place retractors.
The authors dissected 84 cadaveric hips from 44 formalin-embalmed cadavers and measured the distance from the femoral nerve to various points along the acetabular rim by using a reference line drawn from the anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS) to the center of the acetabulum. They found the femoral nerve was closest to the rim (only 16.6 mm away) at the 90° point.
In addition, at 90°, the thickness of the iliopsoas muscle and the femoral length (a probable proxy for size of the patient) were positively associated with increased distance to the nerve. Other anatomic factors such as inguinal ligament length, femoral head diameter, and thickness of the capsule were not associated with the nerve-rim distance.
The degree nomenclature used by Yoshino et al. can be correlated to a clock-face representation of the acetabulum, with the 60° point at the 3 o’clock (anterior) position; the 30° point represents a relatively safe location for placement of the anterior inferior iliac spine retractor (see Figure above).
This important anatomic study can help us improve our mastery of musculoskeletal anatomy—and avoid, if possible, placement of retractors at 90° relative to a line drawn from the ASIS to the center of the acetabulum.
Matthew R. Schmitz, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media
In March 2019, OrthoBuzz covered a JBJS study by Rudasill et al. that found a progressively increasing risk of bleeding requiring transfusion among total knee arthroplasty (TKA) patients who had a preoperative International Normalized Ratio (INR) >1. (INR is a standardized measure of how long it takes blood to clot—the higher the number, the longer the clotting time.) These authors also found a significantly increased risk of infection in TKA patients with INR >1.5. and an increased risk of mortality within 30 days of surgery among those with an INR >1.25 to 1.5.
In the January 2, 2020 issue of JBJS, the same team of researchers report findings from a similarly designed NSQIP-based study of patients undergoing total hip arthroplasty (THA). The authors evaluated data from >17,500 patients who underwent a primary THA between 2005 and 2016 and who also had an INR value documented within 2 days prior to joint replacement. Rudasill et al. stratified these patients into 4 groups based on preoperative INRs: ≤1, >1 to <1.25, 1.25 to <1.5, and ≥1.5).
After adjustment, the authors found a significant, independent effect between increased preoperative INR and increased bleeding requiring transfusion and mortality. Specifically, bleeding risk became evident at INR ≥1.25, and patients with INR ≥1.5 were at a significantly increased risk of mortality. The length of hospital stay also increased significantly as INR class increased.
The authors suggest that “current INR targeting [INR <1.5 for elective orthopaedic surgery] may not be strict enough to minimize adverse outcomes for patients undergoing primary total hip arthroplasty.” While admitting that these findings are not likely to change the day-to-day practice of orthopaedic surgeons, the authors say they “may influence preoperative risk stratification for those patients with elevated INR.”
Based on ample published data and experience, today’s hip surgeons can give patients who are considering total hip arthroplasty (THA) a good general idea of outcomes to expect. But what if orthopaedists could provide more tailored predictions of THA outcome, and thus help patients more realistically manage expectations?
That is essentially what Hesseling et al. set out to do in their database analysis of 6,030 THA patients gleaned from the Dutch Arthroplasty Register; the findings appear in the December 18, 2019 issue of JBJS. Using the patients’ Oxford Hip Scores (OHS) collected up to 1 year postoperatively and a sophisticated statistical technique called latent class growth modeling, the authors categorized outcome trajectories into 3 categories:
- Fast Starters (n = 5,290)—steep improvement in OHS during the first 3 postoperative months, after which the OHS leveled out
- Late Dippers (n = 463)—more modest improvement in OHS initially, followed by subsequent decline toward the 1-year mark
- Slow Starters (n = 277)—virtually no change at the 3-month mark, followed by an improvement in OHS at 1 year postoperatively
Although the authors were unable to tease out factors that clearly distinguished between late dippers and slow starters, they did identify several factors associated with less-than-fast-starter outcomes:
- Female sex
- Age >75 years
- Anxiety and depression
- American Society of Anesthesiologist (ASA) grade III or IV
- Hybrid fixation (cemented acetabular implant)
- Direct lateral surgical approach
Emphasizing that all 3 subgroups experienced functional improvement after THA, Hesseling et al. nevertheless provide useful information that can help surgeons more accurately estimate which patients might be at risk of a less favorable recovery.
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 Paul E. Matuszewski, MD.
A recent issue of The New England Journal of Medicine published the results from a large, multicenter randomized trial comparing the outcomes of hemiarthroplasty versus total hip arthroplasty (THA) to treat displaced femoral neck fractures in ambulatory adults.
The HEALTH investigators enrolled 1,495 patients in the study, and 85.1% of those patients had complete data for analysis after 2 years. The researchers found no significant differences between the groups with regard to the primary outcome—secondary hip procedures (7.9% in the THA group vs 8.3% in the hemi group). The risk of secondary hip procedures during the first year was higher in the THA group, but the hemiarthroplasty group had a higher risk of secondary procedures in the second year. Open/closed reductions of hip dislocations were the most common secondary procedures among the THA group, and revision to THA was the most common secondary procedure in the hemiarthroplasty group. The THA group had slightly better WOMAC scores, but the difference was not within a clinically significant range. There were no between-group differences noted in other patient-reported outcomes.
The HEALTH investigators followed these patients for only two years, which is notably the standard for many orthopaedic studies, but this short follow-up limits the practical application of these findings. The authors note that after the first year, primary THA was favorable with regard to secondary hip procedures. It is reasonable to think that this difference may become more compelling beyond 2 years, as more patients who received hemiarthroplasty are likely to be converted to THA.
The suggestion that there may not be an early benefit of THA over hemiarthroplasty in the ambulatory adult with a displaced femoral neck fracture contrasts with current recommendations from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. However, the 2-year follow-up of this trial represents only a “snapshot” of the continuum of outcomes from these two hip-fracture treatments. The findings may add to our understanding of what our patients can expect during the first 2 years following these procedures, but I would caution surgeons against making any drastic changes to their current practice in response to this data.
Paul E. Matuszewski, MD is the Director of Orthopaedic Trauma Research and Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Traumatology at the University of Kentucky.
Manufacturing, farming, and shopping…These are just 3 diverse examples of how technology is advancing daily and automating tedious tasks, decreasing costs, and improving efficiencies. Orthopaedics and orthopaedic research are not being left behind in this progression. In the November 6, 2019 edition of JBJS, Wyles et al. evaluate the accuracy of natural language processing (NLP) tools in automating the extraction of orthopaedic data from electronic health records (EHRs) and registries. The findings suggest that NLP-generated algorithms can indeed reliably extract data without the labor-intensive and costly process of manual chart reviews.
First, using an open-source NLP “engine,” the researchers developed NLP algorithms focused on 3 elements of >1,500 total hip arthroplasty (THA) procedures captured in the Mayo Total Joint Registry: (1) operative approach, (2) fixation technique, and (3) bearing surface. They then applied the algorithm to operative notes from THAs performed at Mayo and to THA-specific EHR data from outside facilities to determine external validity.
Relative to the current “gold-standard” of manual chart reviews, the algorithm had an accuracy of 99.2% in identifying the operative approach, 90.7% in identifying the fixation technique, and 95.8% in identifying the bearing surface. The researchers found similar accuracy rates when they applied the algorithm to external operative notes.
The findings from this study strongly suggest that properly “trained” NLP algorithms may someday eliminate the need for manual data extraction. That, in turn, could substantially streamline future research, policy, and surveillance tasks within orthopaedics. As Gwo-Chin Lee, MD predicts in his Commentary on this study, “When perfected, NLP will become the gold standard in the initial data mining of patient records for research, billing, and quality-improvement initiatives.” Dr. Lee is quick to add, however, that “no machine learning can occur…without the integral and indispensable input of the human element.”
Orthopaedic surgeons are already using robots to assist them in performing total joint arthroplasties. Wyles et al. show how we can use technology to reliably expedite research on that same subject. I believe the future holds much promise for the use of ever-advancing technologies in orthopaedic surgery and research.
Matthew R. Schmitz, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media
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 all OrthoBuzz Specialty Update summaries. This month, Mengnai Li, MD, co-author of the September 18, 2019 “What’s New in Hip Replacement,” selected the five most clinically compelling findings from among the more than 100 studies summarized in the article.
–Pathology involving the spinopelvic relationship has dominated the recent literature on THA dislocation. For patients presenting with a flatback deformity and stiff spine, who had the highest risk of dislocation, the authors of a recent study suggested the use of a dual-mobility implant construct with targeted 30° of anteversion relative to the functional pelvic plane, based on a standing anteroposterior radiograph.1
Preferred Implant Designs
–A study comparing data from the American Joint Replacement Registry with national registry data from other countries found that cementless stem fixation with the use of ceramic and 36-mm heads was the current US preference, while non-US registries indicated that cemented implants and metal and 32-mm heads were used most commonly.2
–The ongoing effort in the orthopaedic community to reduce opioid consumption without compromising quality of life for joint-replacement patients may be aided by findings from a recent randomized controlled trial. The study found that prescribing 30 immediate-release oxycodone pills instead of 90 pills was associated with a significant reduction in unused pills and decreased opioid consumption without affecting pain scores and patient-reported outcomes.3
– A retrospective review of >4,900 patients who underwent THA or TKA found that 16.2% reported a history of penicillin allergy. No patients among those with a stated penicillin allergy who were given cefazolin had an adverse reaction. Also, there was no increased rate of surgical site infections among those with a stated penicillin allergy who received clindamycin or vancomycin, although the authors acknowledged that this part of the study was underpowered due to the low overall rate of infection.4
Use of TXA
–Recent guidelines on the use of tranexamic acid (TXA) state that no specific routes of administration, dosage, dosing regimen, or time of administration have been shown to provide clearly superior blood-sparing properties.5
- Luthringer TA, Vigdorchik JM. A preoperative workup of a “hip-spine” total hip arthroplasty patient: a simplified approach to a complex problem. J Arthroplasty.2019 Jan 18. [Epub ahead of print].
- Heckmann N, Ihn H, Stefl M, Etkin CD, Springer BD, Berry DJ, Lieberman JR. Early results from the American Joint Replacement Registry: a comparison with other national registries. J Arthroplasty.2019 Jan 5.
- Hannon CP, Calkins TE, Li J, Culvern C, Darrith B, Nam D, Gerlinger TL, Buvanendran A, Della Valle CJ. The James A. Rand Young Investigator’s Award: large opioid prescriptions are unnecessary after total joint arthroplasty: a randomized controlled trial. J Arthroplasty.2019 Feb 4. [Epub ahead of print].
- Stone AH, Kelmer G, MacDonald JH, Clance MR, King PJ. The impact of patient-reported penicillin allergy on risk for surgical site infection in total joint arthroplasty. J Am Acad Orthop Surg.2019 Feb 27. [Epub ahead of print].
- Fillingham YA, Ramkumar DB, Jevsevar DS, Yates AJ, Bini SA, Clarke HD, Schemitsch E, Johnson RL, Memtsoudis SG, Sayeed SA, Sah AP, Della Valle CJ. Tranexamic acid use in total joint arthroplasty: the clinical practice guidelines endorsed by the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons, American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Hip Society, and Knee Society. J Arthroplasty.2018 Oct;33(10):3065-9. Epub 2018 Aug 7.
Much has been written in recent years about the orthopaedist’s predilection for prescribing opioids, most of which has been aimed at helping us become better stewards of these medications. It is imperative that we continue learning how best to prescribe opioids to maximize their effectiveness in postoperative pain management, while minimizing their many harmful and potentially lethal effects. With some patients, finding that balance is much easier than with others. Learning to identify which patients may struggle with achieving that equilibrium is one way to address the current opioid epidemic.
In the September 18, 2019 issue of The Journal, Prentice et al. identify preoperative risk factors that are associated with prolonged opioid utilization after total hip arthroplasty (THA) by retrospectively evaluating the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed to >12,500 THA patients. Many of the findings are in line with those of previous studies looking at this question. Prentice et al. found that the following factors were associated with greater opioid use during the first postoperative year:
- Preoperative opioid use
- Female sex
- Black race
- Higher BMI
- Substance abuse
- Back pain
- Chronic pulmonary disease
For me, the most noteworthy finding was that almost 25% of all patients in the study were still using opioids 271 to 360 days after their operation. That is a much higher percentage than I would have guessed prior to reading this study. Somewhat less surprising but also concerning was the finding that 63% of these patients filled at least 1 opioid prescription in the year prior to their THA, leading the authors to suggest that orthopaedic surgeons “refrain from prescribing opioids preoperatively” or “decrease current opioid users’ preoperative doses.”
Although some readers may be suffering from “opioid fatigue” in the orthopaedic literature, I encourage our community to continue addressing our role in the current opioid crisis. While I believe that we have changed our prescribing practices since the data for this study were collected (2008 through 2011), we cannot dismiss these findings. The opioid epidemic is multifactorial and has many deep-rooted tendrils in our healthcare system. We owe it to our patients and to the public at large to be as significant a part of the solution as possible.
Chad A. Krueger, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media