Early or late dislocation after total hip arthroplasty (THA) is a dreaded complication, and performing a THA to treat a hip fracture is known to increase the risk of postoperative prosthetic joint dislocation. Large-diameter femoral heads, like those used in metal-on-metal implants, offered the prospect of decreased risk of dislocation. Unfortunately, their promise of improved stability was subsequently offset by serious issues with wear. Orthopaedics is notable for technology that promised to solve one problem but led to another, and some wonder whether the increasing popularity of THA using dual-mobility cups to reduce dislocation risk might lead to another example of this paradoxical problem.
However, in the July 17, 2019 issue of The Journal, Jobory et al. published a population-based prospective cohort analysis based on data from the Nordic Arthroplasty Register Association. That study demonstrated a reduced revision risk with dual-mobility acetabular components when THA was performed to treat hip fracture in elderly patients. The authors propensity-score matched 4,520 hip fractures treated with dual-mobility THA to 4,520 hip fractures treated with conventional THA. The study included surgeries from 2001 to 2014, and the median follow-up was 2.4 years for all patients.
Dual-mobility constructs had a lower overall risk of any-component revision (hazard ratio of 0.75), which persisted after authors adjusted for surgical approach (hazard ratio of 0.73). Additionally, the dual-mobility construct had a lower risk of revision due to dislocation (hazard ratio of 0.45), but there was no difference in risk of deep infection between the cohorts. There was no significant difference in risk of any-component revision for aseptic loosening (hazard ratio of 0.544, p=0.052) until the authors adjusted for approach, which resulted in a decreased risk of any-component revision for aseptic loosening (hazard ratio of 0.500, p=0.030). When the authors compared revision of the acetabular component only, they found a reduced risk of revision for any cause as well as revision for dislocation in the dual-mobility cohort using both unadjusted data and data adjusted for surgical approach. Mortality was higher in the dual-mobility group compared with the conventional-component group (hazard ratio of 1.5).
Overall, this study gives us more information regarding the short-term revision risks of an implant design that is gaining popularity in the US. Although dual-mobility constructs seem to be associated with a decreased risk of revision for dislocation in a population of older adults with hip fracture, this data tells us little about this design and technology when used in younger, more active patients, who are at higher risk of polyethylene wear.
Matthew Deren, MD is an orthopaedic surgeon at UMass Memorial Medical Center, an assistant professor at University of Massachusetts Medical School, and a member of the JBJS Social Media Advisory Board.
It has been said that outcomes of total joint arthroplasty are 90% related to surgeon factors (such as prosthetic alignment and fit and soft-tissue management), and only 10% to the implant itself. Historically, surgeon choices of implants for primary total hip and total knee arthroplasty have been based on influences such as the prostheses used during training, prior vendor relationships, specific patient characteristics, and findings in published literature. Absent evidence that the selection of prosthesis vendor affects patient outcomes to any significant degree, and with the universal focus on lowering health care costs, surgeon implant/vendor preferences have come under close scrutiny.
In the August 7, 2019 issue of The Journal, Boylan et al. study the impact of a voluntary preferred single-vendor program at a large, high-volume, urban orthopaedic hospital with >40 (mostly hospital-employed) arthroplasty surgeons. The hospital’s use of hip and knee arthroplasty implants from the preferred vendor rose from 50% to 69% during the program’s first year. In addition, the mean cost per case of cases in which implants from the preferred vendor were used were 23% lower than the mean cost-per-case numbers from the previous year (p<0.001). Boylan et al. noted that low-volume surgeons adopted the initiative at a higher rate than high-volume surgeons, and that surgeons were more compliant with using the preferred vendor for total knee implants than for total hip implants.
Why is it that some higher-volume surgeons seem resistant to change? It is not clear from the data presented in this study whether the answer is familiarity with an instrument system, loyalty to local representatives, or relationships with manufacturers based on financial or personal connections. The authors observed that “collaboration between surgeons and administrators” was a critical success factor in their program, and interestingly, the 3 highest-volume surgeons in this study (who performed an average of ≥20 qualifying cases per month) all used total knee implants from the preferred vendor prior to the initiation of this program.
The provocative findings from this and similar studies lead to many questions ripe for further research. Because hospitals are highly motivated to reduce implant costs in the bundled-payment environment, preferred-vendor programs are gathering steam. We need to better understand how they work (or don’t) for specific surgeons, within surgical departments, and within hospital/insurance systems in order to evaluate their effects on patient outcomes and maximize any cost benefits.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
In the setting of revision total hip arthroplasty (THA), the use of electrocautery—and contact between the thermal device and retained components—cannot always be avoided. In the May 15, 2019 issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, Sonntag et al. perform two implant-retrieval analyses and a separate in vitro investigation to determine what kinds of damage take place when electrocautery energy meets titanium femoral stems.
The components for retrieval analyses were removed from patients who experienced a fracture of the femoral stem or femoral neck after revision THA. The authors found superficial discoloration and melting marks on the retrieved components, and elemental analysis indicated that material had been transferred from the electrocautery tip. During in vitro testing of 6 titanium alloy femoral stems, the authors found that electrocautery surface damage reduced load-to-failure by up to 47% when compared to undamaged femoral neck specimens. Microscopic analysis revealed notable changes in metal microstructure in electrocautery-exposed components, whereby certain zones exhibited higher strength than others, which, the authors speculate, might result in lower overall fatigue resistance.
Both the retrieval and in vitro analyses showed that electrocautery damage to femoral implants, particularly in the anterolateral region at the base of the neck, reduced implant fatigue resistance. However, the authors say their results need to “be carefully interpreted,” because they are based on only 2 retrievals and a limited number of test specimens. Nevertheless, they conclude that “electrocautery device contact [with femoral implants] should be avoided and the use of conventional scalpels is recommended, where reasonable.”
Despite what seems like a new, high-quality study being published on the topic every week or so, orthopaedic surgeons still have an extremely hard time determining whether a prosthetic hip or knee is infected or not. We have an array of available tests and the relatively easy-to-follow criteria for a periprosthetic joint infection (PJI) from the Musculoskeletal Infection Society (MSIS), but a large number of these patients still fall into the gray zone of “possibly infected.” This predicament is especially thorny in patients who received antibiotics just prior to the diagnostic workup, which interferes with the accuracy of many tests for PJI.
In the April 17, 2019 issue of The Journal, Shahi et al. remind orthopaedic surgeons about a valuable tool that can be used in this scenario. Their retrospective study looked at 121 patients who had undergone revision hip or knee arthroplasty due to an MSIS criteria-confirmed periprosthetic infection. Shahi et al. sought to determine which diagnostic tests were least affected by prior antibiotic administration. The authors found that erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), C-reactive protein (CRP) level, synovial white blood cell (WBC) count, and polymorphonuclear neutrophil (PMN) percentage were all significantly lower in the 32% of patients who had received antibiotics within 2 weeks of those tests, compared with the 68% who did not receive antibiotics. The only test that was found not to be significantly affected by the prior admission of antibiotics was the urine-based leukocyte esterase strip test.
Considering the ease and rapidity with which a leukocyte esterase test can be performed and evaluated (at a patient’s bedside, with immediate results), its low cost, and the fact that it is included in the MSIS criteria, these findings are very important and useful. While we would prefer that patients with a possibly infected total hip or knee not receive antibiotics prior to their diagnostic workup, previous antibiotic exposure remains a relatively common scenario. The findings from this study can assist us in those difficult cases, and they add further evidence to support the value and reliability of the easy-to-perform leukocyte esterase test.
Chad A. Krueger, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media
The indications for treating total hip arthroplasty (THA) dislocations by cementing a constrained polyethylene liner into a well-fixed, retained acetabular component at the time of revision are narrow. That’s largely due to concerns about the durability of the resulting acetabular construct. Now, thanks to a study by Brown et al. in the April 3, 2019 issue of JBJS, hip surgeons have some hard data about the long-term outcomes of this approach.
After reviewing 125 cases in which a constrained liner was cemented into a retained, osseointegrated acetabular component during revision THA, with a mean follow-up of 7 years, the authors found that:
- Survivorship free from revision for instability was 86% at 5 years and 81% at 10 years. The cumulative incidence of instability at 7 years was 18%.
- Survivorship free from aseptic acetabular component revision was 78% at 5 years and 65% at 10 years. The most common failure mechanism was dissociation of the constrained liner from the retained component.
- Harris hip scores (HHS) did not improve significantly after revision. This finding is consistent with prior research that shows better post-revision HHS scores in patients whose revisions include the entire acetabular component.
- Position of the retained cup did not affect implant survivorship or risk of dislocation.
The authors mention alternative strategies for reducing the risk of dislocation after revision THA, such as the use of large-diameter heads and dual-mobility constructs. Still, they conclude that this constrained-liner approach, in the setting of a relatively well-positioned acetabular component, is a viable and durable THA revision option, especially for those “with a compromised abductor mechanism, recurrent instability, [and] a well-fixed and well-positioned acetabular component, for whom an acetabular revision would not be tolerated.”
The recent orthopaedic literature, including a 2017 JBJS study, provides substantial evidence that oral and intravenous tranexamic acid (TXA) are equivalent in their effectiveness at reducing blood loss after total hip arthroplasty (THA)—with oral administration being less expensive and more convenient. But what are the optimal doses and timing of oral TXA in the setting of THA?
The findings of a randomized controlled trial by Wang et al. in the March 6, 2019 issue of JBJS go a long way toward answering that question. The authors randomized 200 patients undergoing primary THA to 1 of 4 groups, with all patients receiving an intraoperative topical dose of 1.0 g of TXA and a single dose of 2.0 g of TXA orally at 2 hours postoperatively. In addition,:
- Group A received 1.0 g of oral placebo at 3, 9, and 15 hours postoperatively
- Group B received 1.0 g of oral TXA at 3 hours postoperatively and 1.0 g of placebo at 9 and 15 hours postoperatively
- Group C received 1.0 g of oral TXA at 3 and 9 hours postoperatively and 1.0 g of placebo at 15 hours postoperatively
- Group D received 1.0 g of TXA at 3, 9, and 15 hours postoperatively
The mean total blood loss during hospitalization was significantly less in Groups B, C, and D (792, 631, and 553 mL, respectively) than in Group A (984 mL). Groups C and D had lower mean reductions in hemoglobin than did Groups A and B. No significant between-group differences were observed regarding 90-day thromboembolic complications (there were none) or transfusions (there was only 1, in Group A), but the authors said “this study was likely underpowered for establishing meaningful comparisons concerning [those 2] outcomes.”
Although this study documented significantly lower total blood losses in patients who were managed with multiple doses of oral TXA postoperatively, additional studies are required to determine whether the 3-dose regimen is superior to the 2-dose regimen.
When Medicare’s Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR) program was implemented in 2016, the health care community—especially orthopaedic surgeons— had 2 major concerns. First, would the program actually demonstrate the ability to decrease the costs of total joint replacements while maintaining the same, or improved, outcomes? Second, would CJR promote the unintended consequence of participating hospitals and surgeons ”cherry picking” lower-risk patients and steering clear of higher-risk (and presumably higher cost) patients? Both of these questions were at the heart of the study by Barnett et al. in a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
The authors evaluated hip and knee replacements at 75 metropolitan centers that were mandated to participate in the CJR program and compared the costs, complication rates, and patient demographics to similar procedures at 121 control centers that did not participate in CJR. The authors found significantly greater decreases in institutional spending per joint-replacement episode in institutions participating in the CJR compared to those that did not. Most of these savings appeared to come from CJR-participating institutions sending fewer patients to post-acute care facilities after surgery. Furthermore, the authors did not find differences between centers participating in the CJR and control centers in terms of composite complication rate or the percentage of procedures that were performed on high-risk patients.
While this 2-year evaluation does not provide the level of detail necessary to make far-reaching conclusions, it does address two of the biggest concerns related to CJR implementation from a health-systems perspective. There may be individual CJR-participating centers that are not saving Medicare money or that are cherry picking lower-risk patients, but overall the program appears to be doing what it set out to do—successfully motivating participating hospitals and healthcare facilities to look critically at what they can do to decrease the costs of a joint-replacement episode while simultaneously maintaining a high level of patient care. The Trump administration shifted CJR to a partly voluntary model in March 2018, and I hope policymakers consider these findings if further changes to the CJR model are planned.
Chad A. Krueger, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media
Concerns have arisen that the implementation of value-based, alternative payment models pegged to “bundled” episodes of care and/or patient outcomes may make it harder for a subset of patients to access the care they need. Specifically, some surgeons may be apprehensive to treat patients who have substantial medical comorbidities or socioeconomic situations that increase their risk of postsurgical complications and poor outcomes, because these alternative payment models often financially penalize physicians and hospitals for the cost of suboptimal results. The study by Shau et al. in the December 5, 2018 issue of The Journal provides data that sharpens the horns of this dilemma.
The authors used the National Readmissions Database to perform a propensity-score-matched comparison between >5,300 patients with Medicaid payer status who underwent a primary total hip arthroplasty (THA) and an equal number of patients with other types of insurance who also underwent primary THA. Shau et al. found that Medicaid-covered THA patients had significantly increased overall readmission rates (28.8% vs 21%, p <0.001, relative risk=1.37), mean length of stay (4.5 vs 3.3 days, p <0.0001), and mean total cost of care ($71,110 vs $65,309, p <0.0001), relative to the other group. These results strongly suggest that Medicaid payer status is an independent factor associated with increased resource utilization after total hip arthroplasty.
These findings can be viewed from a couple of different perspectives. First, from a preventive standpoint, surgeons and healthcare systems providing THA for Medicaid patients may need to spend more time preoperatively optimizing these patients (both physically and psychosocially) to decrease their postoperative resource burden and increase the likelihood of a good clinical outcome. Second, these results are further proof that any fair and effective alternative payment model needs to take into consideration factors such as Medicaid payer status and patient comorbidities. If they do not, such models will actually throw access barriers in front of patients in this demographic because providers may feel that caring for them increases the likelihood of being penalized financially.
Both perspectives are valid, so Medicaid payer status is a crucial factor to consider as alternative payment programs move forward. Nowadays, controlling costs is an important goal of any healthcare delivery system, but it must not lead to unintended discrimination in patient access to care. As we create further alternative payment models and refine existing ones, we must be careful not to prioritize cost cutting ahead of equitable patient access.
Chad A. Krueger, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media
The adult joint-reconstruction community has made great strides in the last 2 decades in understanding what causes aseptic loosening of arthroplasty components. For example, revelations about polyethylene particulate debris has led to the production of highly cross-linked polyethylene, which in turn has lowered wear rates, decreased revision rates, and increased the survivorship of total hip implants (see related OrthoBuzz post). Still, polyethylene debris is only one factor that can lead to aseptic loosening. Another important, yet often overlooked, factor is friction between the impacted acetabular shell and the host bone.
In the October 3, 2018 issue of The Journal, Bergmann et al. report data that help us better understand the “friction factor” in aseptic loosening. The authors implanted specially designed, instrumented acetabular components that measured in vivo friction moments among nine patients while they engaged in >1,400 different activities. The authors found that 124 of those activities led to friction moments >4 Nm—which appears to be the upper limit for facilitating a firm union between the acetabular component and the native socket.
Movements such as muscle stretching in the lunge position, the breaststroke in swimming, 2-legged standing with muscles contracted, and a single-legged stance while moving the contralateral leg were among those that created the highest friction between the implant and the host bone—and that could impede bone ingrowth into the acetabular component and thus contribute to aseptic loosening. The study also highlights the importance of periodic unloading of the prosthetic joint to allow proper synovial lubrication, which helps minimize the effects of high-friction moments. The good news is that the vast majority of activities studied do not appear to result in friction forces above the 4 Nm threshold.
Although these data should be confirmed with other in-vivo instrumented prostheses (assuming there are more patients willing to receive acetabular components capable of delivering telemetric data), they provide practical insight into the real-world forces placed on total hip prostheses after implantation. Such information can be used to counsel patients regarding high-friction and sustained-loading activities to be avoided, and it can help physical therapists and surgeons tailor postoperative regimens that optimize patient recovery while minimizing the risk to implanted prostheses.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD