The cost of medical care in the United States has been shown to rise with advancing patient age, and total joint arthroplasty (TJA) is a prime example of this unsurprising phenomenon. In attempts to curtail costs and reduce variability, Medicare and other payers have introduced alternative payment models (APMs), such as the Bundled Payments for Care Improvement (BPCI) initiative. In this model’s application to TJA, when participating institutions keep the cost of the “episode” below a risk-adjusted target price, they accrue the savings as a profit, but they sustain a financial penalty if the episode costs more than the target price.
Multiple studies have suggested that APMs can negatively affect the fiscal health of institutions that care for many high-risk patients. Although increasing age has been associated with higher-cost episodes of care, age is not one of the factors that the BPCI model accounts for. Consequently, concerns have been raised that providers may practice “cost discrimination” against very old patients.
In the October 7, 2020 issue of The Journal, Petersen et al. examine how an aging population has affected a New York City orthopaedic center in terms of the BPCI model applied to TJA. The authors analyzed the relationship between patient age and cost of care among 1,662 patients who underwent primary total hip and knee arthroplasty over a 3-year period under BPCI. They then used a modeling tool to predict shifting age demographics for their local area out to the year 2040.
Petersen et al. found that under BPCI, their institution sustained a nearly $2,000-per-case loss for TJA care episodes among patients 85 to 99 years of age. Currently this loss is offset by profits realized by performing TJAs in younger patients. However, predictive modeling identified an inflection point of 2030, after which a relative increase in older patients and a decrease in younger patients will yield an overall net decrease in profits for primary TJA.
Because no one, including orthopaedic surgeons, can turn back the clock on aging, health care stakeholders must find ways either to adjust downward the cost of care for the elderly (seemingly difficult without adversely affecting outcomes) or adjust reimbursement models to account for the increased costs associated with aging. I agree with the conclusion of Petersen et al.: “The BPCI initiative and [other] novel APMs should consider age as a modifier for reimbursement to incentivize care for the more vulnerable and costly age groups in the future.”
Matthew R. Schmitz, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media
Every month, JBJS reviews 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, PhD, co-author of the September 16, 2020 “What’s New in Hip Replacement,” selected the five most clinically compelling findings from among the 95 noteworthy studies summarized in the article.
Medical Comorbidities and Outcomes of Joint Arthroplasty
–Among 543 malnourished joint arthroplasty patients (with albumin levels <3.4 g/L), an intervention encouraging a high-protein, anti-inflammatory diet shortened the length of hospital stay and lowered readmissions, relative to malnourished arthroplasty patients who did not receive the intervention.1
Surgical Factors and Outcomes of Total Hip Arthroplasty (THA)
–A multicenter, prospective study used propensity-score matching to compare THA performed with a direct anterior approach with THA performed with a posterolateral approach. Researchers found no patient-reported outcome differences at 1.5 months postoperatively or at ≥1 year up to 5 years.2
Periprosthetic Joint Infection (PJI)
–A Musculoskeletal Infection Society workgroup published a recommendation for a 4-tier tool for reporting outcomes after surgical treatment of PJI. Proposed outcomes include infection control with no antibiotic treatment, infection control with suppressive antibiotic therapy, need for reoperation and/or revision and/or spacer retention, and death.
–A meta-analysis found only low-quality retrospective evidence supporting the practice of routinely applying intrawound vancomycin to reduce the rates of PJI. Authors called for a prospective randomized trial before adoption of this practice.3
Postoperative Urinary Retention
–A randomized controlled trial found that preoperative and perioperative administration of tamsulosin did not reduce the incidence of postoperative urinary retention after hip and knee arthroplasty. However, the study included a general male population rather than a higher-risk group.4
- Schroer WC, LeMarr AR, Mills K, Childress AL, Morton DJ, Reedy ME. 2019 Chitranjan S. Ranawat Award: elective joint arthroplasty outcomes improve in malnourished patients with nutritional intervention: a prospective population analysis demonstrates a modifiable risk factor. Bone Joint J.2019 Jul;101-B(7_Supple_C):17-21.
- Sauder N, Vestergaard V, Siddiqui S, Galea VP, Bragdon CR, Malchau H, Elsharkawy KA, Huddleston JI 3rd, Emerson RH. The AAHKS Clinical Research Award: no evidence for superior patient-reported outcome scores after total hip arthroplasty with the direct anterior approach at 1.5 months postoperatively, and through a 5-year follow-up. J Arthroplasty.2020 Feb 12.
- Heckmann ND, Mayfield CK, Culvern CN, Oakes DA, Lieberman JR, Della Valle CJ. Systematic review and meta-analysis of intrawound vancomycin in total hip and total knee arthroplasty: a call for a prospective randomized trial. J Arthroplasty.2019 Aug;34(8):1815-22. Epub 2019 Apr 1.
- Schubert MF, Thomas JR, Gagnier JJ, McCarthy CM, Lee JJ, Urquhart AG, Pour AE. The AAHKS Clinical Research Award: prophylactic tamsulosin does not reduce the risk of urinary retention following lower extremity arthroplasty: a double-blinded randomized controlled trial. J Arthroplasty.2019 Jul;34(7S):S17-23. Epub 2019 Mar 20.
There is a wry saying in academic medicine that “nothing ruins good results like long-term follow-up.” But long-term follow-up helps us truly understand how our orthopaedic interventions affect patients. This is especially important with procedures on children, and the orthopaedic surgeons at the University of Iowa have been masterful with long-term outcome analysis in pediatric orthopaedics. They demonstrate that again in the August 5, 2020 issue of The Journal, as Scott et al. present their results comparing outcomes among 2 cohorts of patients who underwent treatment for developmental hip dislocations between the ages of 18 months and 5 years—and who were followed for a minimum of 40 years.
Seventy-eight hips in 58 patients underwent open reduction with Salter innominate osteotomy, and 58 hips in 45 patients were treated with closed reduction. At 48 years after reduction, 29 (50%) of the hips in the closed reduction cohort had undergone total hip arthroplasty (THA), compared to 24 (31%) of hips in the open reduction + osteotomy group. This rate of progression to THA nearly doubled compared to previously reported results at 40 years of follow-up, when 29% of hips in the closed reduction group and 14% of hips in the open reduction group had been replaced.
In addition, the authors found that patient age at the time of reduction and presence of unilateral or bilateral disease affected outcomes. Patients with bilateral disease who were treated at 18 months of age had a much lower rate of progression to THA when treated with closed reduction, compared to those treated with open reduction—but the opposite was true among patients with bilateral disease treated at 36 months of age. Treatment type and age did not seem to substantially affect hip survival among those with unilateral disease.
I commend the authors for their dedication to analyzing truly long-term follow-up data to help us understand treatment outcomes among late-diagnosed developmental hip dislocations in kids. Long-term follow-up may “ruin” good results, but it gives us more accurate and useful results. And, in this case, the findings reminded us how important it is to diagnose and treat developmental hip dislocations as early in a child’s life as possible.
Matthew R. Schmitz, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media
Acetabular components for primary total hip arthroplasty (THA) made with ultraporous surfaces were developed to enhance osseointegration and biological fixation. In the July 1, 2020 issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, Palomaki et al. report on a registry study that suggests that implant survival with these components over an average follow-up of 3.6 years is not so “ultra.”
The authors evaluated >6,000 primary THAs that used a Tritanium ultraporous cup and >25,000 THAs that used a conventional cup, all performed between 2009 and 2017. When they compared the two groups for revision for any reason, the 5-year Kaplan-Meier survivorship of the Tritanium group (94.7%) was inferior to that of the conventional-cup group (96.0%). When revision for aseptic loosening was examined, the 5-year survivorship was also inferior for the Tritanium group (99.0%) compared with the conventional group (99.9%). Regression analysis revealed that the Tritanium group had a much higher risk of revision for aseptic loosening 2 to 4 years after surgery (hazard ratio, 11.2; p <0.001). Interestingly, these survivorship and risk-of-revision differences disappeared when the authors analyzed data for the period from May 15, 2014 to December 31, 2017–when the registry was updated to include patient BMI and ASA-class data.
The authors cite several caveats that readers should apply to these findings. The registry did not capture radiographic findings for these patients, so potentially relevant imaging data could not be analyzed. And, despite the database upgrade in 2014, there was a dearth of available data on patient comorbidities. Finally, wide confidence intervals for some of the hazard-ratio calculations suggest the need to confirm revision-risk findings with further research.
Limitations notwithstanding, the study by Palomaki et al. suggests that the performance of ultraporous cups may not meet the hopes and expectations of hip surgeons and their patients.
OrthoBuzz occasionally receives posts from guest bloggers. This guest post comes from Eric Secrist, MD in response to a recent study in Arthritis Research & Therapy.
There has been a proliferation of research regarding postoperative opioid usage after joint arthroplasty due to the widespread opioid epidemic. But Rajamäki and colleagues from Tampere University in Finland took the unique approach of also analyzing acetaminophen and NSAID usage in addition to opioids. The authors used robust data from Finland’s nationwide Drug Prescription Register, which contains reliable information on all medications dispensed from pharmacies, including over-the-counter drugs.
After excluding patients who underwent revision surgery or had their knee or hip replaced for a diagnosis other than osteoarthritis, the authors analyzed 6,238 hip replacements in 5,657 patients and 7,501 knee replacements in 6,791 patients, all performed between 2002 and 2013. The mean patient age was 68.7 years and the mean BMI was 29.
One year postoperatively, 26.1% of patients were still filling prescriptions for one or more analgesics, including NSAIDs (15.5%), acetaminophen (10.1%), and opioids (6.7%). Obesity and preoperative analgesic use were the strongest predictors of prolonged analgesic medication usage 1 year following total joint arthroplasty. Other predictors of ongoing analgesic usage included older age, female gender, and higher number of comorbidities. Patients who underwent knee replacement used the 3 analgesics more often than those who underwent hip replacement.
This study had all of the limitations inherent in retrospective database analyses. Additionally, it was not possible for the authors to determine whether patients took analgesic medications for postoperative knee or hip pain or for pain elsewhere in their body. Finally, the authors utilized antidepressant reimbursement data as a surrogate marker for depression and other medications as a surrogate for a Charlson Comorbidity Index.
Figure 2 from this study (shown below) reveals 2 important findings. First, total joint arthroplasty resulted in a significant decrease in the proportion of patients taking an analgesic medication, regardless of BMI. Second, patients in lower BMI categories were less likely to use analgesics both preoperatively and postoperatively.
The findings from this study may be most useful during preoperative counseling for obese patients, who often present with severe joint pain but are frequently told they need to delay surgery to lose weight and improve their complication-risk profile. Based on this study, those patients can be counseled that losing weight will not only decrease their complication risk, but also decrease their reliance on medications for the pain that led them to seek surgery in the first place.
Eric Secrist, MD is a fourth-year orthopaedic resident at Atrium Health in Charlotte, North Carolina.
This post comes from Fred Nelson, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon in the Department of Orthopedics at Henry Ford Hospital and a clinical associate professor at Wayne State Medical School. Some of Dr. Nelson’s tips go out weekly to more than 3,000 members of the Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS), and all are distributed to more than 30 orthopaedic residency programs. Those not sent to the ORS are periodically reposted in OrthoBuzz with the permission of Dr. Nelson.
Up to 33% of patients are dissatisfied with their outcome after a knee or hip replacement. It’s evident that successful recovery from lower-limb joint replacement is aided by leg strength and stamina, but handgrip strength has been proposed as a proxy for a person’s overall muscle strength. A recent prospective cohort study1 of 226 patients who underwent total hip arthroplasty (THA) and 246 patients who underwent total knee arthroplasty (TKA) investigated the association between handgrip strength measured preoperatively with a dynamometer and changes in preoperative versus 1-year postoperative patient-reported outcome scores. Researchers analyzed the data after adjusting for sex, body mass index, and baseline scores.
For both THA and TKA patients, handgrip strength was positively associated with most physical function, symptom, and quality-of-life scores measured with HOOS, KOOS, and SF-36 questionnaires. On the other hand, there was no association between grip strength and mental-component scores in either the THA or TKA group.
Based on a review of the literature and this study’s findings, the authors conclude that the association between handgrip strength and THA/TKA outcomes is partly dependent on the joint site. Although the mechanism to explain the association has not been elucidated, translating these findings into an informal dynamometer-based tool could help clinicians counsel prospective joint-replacement patients about the value of preoperative conditioning.
1. Meessen JMTA, Fiocco M, Tordoir RL, Sjer A, Verdegaal SHM, Slagboom PE, Vliet Vlieland TPM, Nelissen RGHH. Association of handgrip strength with patient-reported outcome measures after total hip and knee arthroplasty. Rheumatol Int. 2020 Apr;40(4):565-571. doi: 10.1007/s00296-020-04532-5. Epub 2020 Feb 18. PMID: 32072233
Among >100,000 total hip arthroplasty (THA) patients ≥55 years of age whose data resides in a Canadian arthroplasty database, the 15-year cumulative incidence of periprosthetic joint infection (PJI) was 1.44%, according to a study by the McMaster Arthroplasty Collaborative in the March 18, 2020 issue of JBJS.
In addition to finding that the overall risk of developing PJI after THA has not changed over the last 15 years in this cohort, the authors found the following factors associated with increased risk of developing a PJI:
- Male sex (absolute increased risk of 0.48% at 10 years)
- Type 2 diabetes (absolute increased risk of 0.64% at 10 years)
- Discharge to a convalescent-care facility (absolute increased risk of 0.46% at 10 years)
The authors view the third bulleted item above as “a surrogate marker of frailty and poorer general health.”
Patient age, surgical approach, surgical setting (academic versus rural), use of cement, and patient income were not associated with an increased risk of PJI. Nearly two-thirds of PJI cases occurred within 2 years after surgery, and 98% occurred within 10 years postoperatively.
The authors conclude that these and other substantiated findings about PJI risk factors “should be reviewed with the patient during preoperative risk counseling.”
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
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