Over the last 2 decades, research into how various “preexisting conditions” affect the outcomes of orthopaedic interventions has increasingly focused on the impact of mental health (a patient’s “state of mind” and coping abilities) and psychological diagnoses such as depression. The impact of mental health, depression, and personality characteristics on patient-reported outcomes following significant skeletal trauma has been well documented in the trauma literature. In addition, previous studies in knee arthroplasty have identified depression as a major factor in suboptimal patient outcomes.
In the October 17, 2018 issue of The Journal, Halawi et al. teased out the impact of depression and mental health—independently and in combination—on patient-reported outcomes following primary total joint arthroplasty (TJA) in 469 patients at a minimum follow-up of one year.
The authors used the validated SF-12 MCS instrument to assess patient baseline mental health at the time of surgery. They also used the widely accepted WOMAC score to assess joint-specific pain, stiffness, and physical function before and after surgery. Using these tools, the authors showed that, while depression alone may diminish some patient-reported gains obtained from arthroplasty, it does not seem to affect a patient’s overall outcome as much as poor mental health prior to surgery. In this study, patients with depression but good mental health achieved patient-reported outcomes comparable to those among normal controls. Still, patients without depression and in good mental health were found to have the most robust improvements after undergoing TJA.
Orthopaedic surgeons need to better understand the interplay between these complex psychological states and patient outcomes. These authors conclude that the effect of depression on patient-reported outcomes is “less pessimistic than previously thought,” but we welcome further studies examining the link between “the mind” and orthopaedic outcomes. Finally, we should be ready to refer patients to our mental health colleagues when we detect a potential underlying nonphysical condition that might adversely affect the magnitude of benefit from the treatments we offer.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
As Fleischman et al. observe in the January 17, 2018 edition of The Journal, “there is a prevailing belief that patients living alone cannot be safely discharged directly home after total joint arthroplasty [TJA].” Not so, according to results of their Level II prospective cohort study.
The authors reviewed outcomes among a cohort of 769 patients undergoing lower-extremity arthroplasty who were discharged home, 138 of whom were living alone. While patients living alone more commonly stayed an additional night in the hospital and utilized more home-health services than patients living with others, there were no between-group differences in 90-day complication rates or unplanned clinical events, including readmissions.
These findings are reassuring, but all patients discharged home after a lower-limb arthroplasty need some support with meal preparation, personal hygiene, and other activities of daily living for the first 10 to 14 days. Clinicians should therefore adequately assess the local support system for each patient living alone in terms of family, neighbors, or friends to be sure the patient will be safe if discharged home. This crucial determination is a team exercise involving nursing, the surgeon, physical and occupational therapists, and a social worker. Fleischman et al. implicitly credit the “nurse navigator” program at their institution (Rothman Institute) with coordinating this team effort.
Investigation into these issues is very important as the orthopaedic community works to lower the costs of arthroplasty care while improving patient safety and satisfaction. If the appropriate support is in place, patients and clinicians alike would prefer that patients sleep in their own beds after discharge from joint replacement surgery.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
Patients with diabetes have an increased risk of postoperative complications following total joint arthroplasty (TJA). Additionally, perioperative hyperglycemia has been identified as a common and independent risk factor for periprosthetic joint infection, even among patients without diabetes. Therefore, knowing a patient’s glycemic status prior to surgery is very helpful.
In the November 15, 2017 edition of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, Shohat et al. demonstrate that serum fructosamine, a measure of glycemic control obtainable via a simple and inexpensive blood test, is a good predictor of adverse outcomes among TJA patients—whether or not they have diabetes.
Researchers screened 829 patients undergoing TJA for serum fructosamine and HbA1c—a common measure, levels of which <7% are typically considered good glycemic control. Patients with fructosamine levels ≥292 µmol/L had a significantly higher risk of postoperative deep infection, readmission, and reoperation, while HbA1c levels ≥7% showed no significant correlations with any of those three adverse outcomes. Among the 51 patients who had fructosamine levels ≥292 µmol/L, 39% did not have HbA1c levels ≥7%, and 35% did not have diabetes.
In addition to being more predictive of postsurgical complications than HbA1c, fructosamine is also a more practical measurement. A high HbA1c level during preop screening could mean postponing surgery for 2 to 3 months, while the patient waits to see whether HbA1c levels come down. Fructosamine levels, on the other hand, change within 14 to 21 days, so patients could be reassessed for glycemic control after only 2 or 3 weeks.
While conceding that the ≥292 µmol/L threshold for fructosamine suggested in this study should not be etched in stone, the authors conclude that “fructosamine could serve as the screening marker of choice” for presurgical glycemic assessment. However, because the study did not examine whether correcting fructosamine levels leads to reduced postoperative complications, a prospective clinical trial to answer that question is needed.
An estimated 7 million people living in the US have undergone a total joint arthroplasty (TJA), and the demand for total hip arthroplasty (THA) and total knee arthroplasty (TKA) will almost certainly increase during the next 15 years. But how many people can expect to have an additional TJA after having a first one?
That’s the question Sanders et al. address in their historical cohort study, published in the March 1, 2017 edition of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery. They followed more than 4,000 patients who underwent either THA or TKA between 1969 and 2008 to assess the likelihood of those patients undergoing a subsequent, non-revision TJA.
Here’s what they found:
- Twenty years after an initial THA, the likelihood of a contralateral hip replacement was 29%.
- Ten years after an initial THA, the likelihood of a contralateral knee replacement was 6%, and the likelihood of an ipsilateral knee replacement was 2% at 20 years.
- Twenty years after an initial TKA, the likelihood of a contralateral knee replacement was 45%.
- After an initial TKA, the likelihood of a contralateral hip replacement was 3% at 20 years, and the likelihood of an ipsilateral hip replacement was 2% at 20 years.
In those undergoing an initial THA, younger age was a significant predictor of contralateral hip replacement, and in those undergoing an initial TKA, older age was a predictor of ipsilateral or contralateral hip replacement.
The authors conclude that “patients undergoing [THA] or [TKA] can be informed of a 30% to 45% chance of a surgical procedure in a contralateral cognate joint and about a 5% chance of a surgical procedure in noncognate joints within 20 years of initial arthroplasty.” They caution, however, that these findings may not be generalizable to populations with more racial or socioeconomic diversity than the predominantly Caucasian population they studied.
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.”
A case-control study by Boraiah et al. in the December 2, 2015 JBJS describes a risk-stratification tool that helps predict which patients undergoing total joint arthroplasty (TJA) are likely to be readmitted to the hospital after discharge. The authors used the tool—dubbed the Readmission Risk Assessment Tool, or RRAT—preoperatively among 207 patients who were subsequently readmitted after primary TJA and two cohorts of 234 patients each (one random and one age-matched) who were not.
The total RRAT score for each individual is the cumulative sum of all scores for modifiable risk factors such as infection, smoking, obesity, diabetes, and VTE. Non-modifiable risk factors such as age, sex, race, and socioeconomic status are not included in the scoring system.
The median RRAT score for those readmitted was 3; the median RRAT score for those not readmitted was 1. An RRAT score of ≥3 was significantly associated with higher odds of readmission. Surgical site infection was the most common cause of readmission (found in 45% of the 207 readmitted patients).
The authors note that in the current and future climate of value-based health care, “any unplanned readmission will have financial consequences on the provider and health-care institution”—not to mention the burden readmissions place on patients. While admitting that the RRAT needs to be further evaluated and validated in larger cohorts and that it may not be possible to modify individual risk factors into “an acceptable range” prior to TJA, the authors suggest that risk stratification with the RRAT “can present a ‘teachable moment’ and an opportunity for shared decision-making discussions.”