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
An elevated International Normalized Ratio (INR)—a standardized gauge for how long it takes blood to clot—is rarely a good sign when someone is about to undergo an elective orthopaedic procedure. This is especially true for larger surgeries such as total hip or knee arthroplasty, in which there are already concerns about perioperative bleeding. Excessive surgery-related blood loss can lead to wound complications, increased length of hospital stay, and higher mortality rates. But what precisely constitutes an “elevated” INR? While some recommendations suggest that elective procedures be performed only when a patient’s INR is ≤1.5, the evidence supporting this recommendation, especially in the setting of total knee arthroplasty (TKA), is sparse at best.
In the March 20, 2019 issue of The Journal, Rudasill et al. use the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP) database to help define what “elevated” should mean in the context of TKA. They evaluated data from >21,000 patients who underwent a TKA between 2010 and 2016 and who also had an INR level reported within one day before their joint replacement. They stratified these patients based on their INR levels (≤1, >1 to 1.25, >1.25 to 1.5, and >1.5). Using multivariate regression analysis to adjust for patient demographics and comorbidities, the authors found a progressively increasing risk of bleeding requiring transfusion for each group with an INR >1 (odds ratios of 1.19, 1.29 and 2.02, respectively). Relative to patients with an INR of ≤1, Rudasill et al. also found a significantly increased risk of infection in TKA patients with an INR >1.5 (odds ratio 5.34), and an increased risk of mortality within 30 days of surgery among patients with an INR >1.25 to 1.5 (odds ratio 3.37). Lastly, rates of readmission and the length of stay were significantly increased in patients with an INR >1.25.
While there are certainly weaknesses inherent in using the NSQIP dataset, this study is the first to carefully evaluate the impact of slight INR elevations on post-TKA morbidity and mortality. While I was not surprised that increasing INR levels were associated with increased bleeding events, I was impressed by the profound differences in length of stay, infection, and mortality between patients with an INR ≤1 and those with an INR >1.25. I agree with the authors’ conclusion that “current guidelines for a target INR of <1.5 should be reconsidered for patients undergoing TKA.” Further, based on the risks highlighted in this study, prospective or propensity matched cohort studies should be performed to help determine whether anyone with an INR >1 should undergo a TKA.
Chad A. Krueger, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media
Based on available data, it appears that most arthroplasty surgeons in the United States (myself included) usually resurface the patella during total knee arthroplasties (TKAs). This strategy is supported by much of the orthopaedic literature, but there is no universal consensus on which approach is best. Internationally, surgeons in some countries resurface the patella <20% of the time.
Amid this debate, the March 6, 2019 JBJS study by Maney et al. utilizes the New Zealand Joint Registry to shine a little more light on the issue. After analyzing close to 60,000 primary TKAs performed by 203 surgeons, the authors found that patients who underwent knee arthroplasty by surgeons who “usually” (>90% of the time) resurfaced the patella had significantly higher patient-reported Oxford Knee Scores at both 6 months and 5 years postoperatively, compared to those who had their knee replacements performed by surgeons who “selectively” (≥10% to ≤90% of the time) or “rarely” (<10% of the time) resurfaced the patella. However, only 7% of the surgeons in the study fell into the usually-resurface category. That fact, along with the authors’ inability to account for possible confounding patient or surgeon factors, imparts some fragility to the study’s data. Just as (or even more) importantly, the authors did not find any differences in revision rates per 100 component years between the three resurfacing strategies, with >92% survival for all implants at 15 years postoperatively.
This study seems to support previously published data suggesting that resurfacing the patella yields functional outcomes that are at least as good as, if not slightly better than, those with not resurfacing the patella. Still, added costs and potential complications are associated with patellar resurfacing, and these results could also be used to support the strategy of surgeons who do not routinely perform that part of a total knee arthroplasty.
While we still don’t know the “best” strategy, this study adds further credence to the notion that there is not a “wrong” technique when it comes to resurfacing the patella, and surgeons should continue to use whichever technique they feel is best for individual patients.
Chad A. Krueger, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media
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.
In the absence of infection and aseptic loosening, significant postoperative pain persists in up to 20% of joint-replacement patients. In one study related to this predicament, investigators studied 3 groups of individuals: 1) those without a total joint replacement (TJR) and no self-reported pain, 2) patients with a well-functioning TJR and no self-reported pain (mean implant time of 1.5 years), and 3) patients with a painful TJR (self-reported pain of >8 on a 0 to10 VAS scale; mean implant time of 1.76 years)1.
Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were collected for use in a lymphocyte reactivity assay to detect anti-inflammatory (IL-1ra, IL-10, IL-13 and IL-11) and inflammatory cytokines or receptors (IL-1rII and TNFR1). In general, anti-inflammatory cytokine markers in patients with post-TJR pain were decreased compared to controls and to individuals with no pain following TJR, with IL-10 and IL-13 significantly decreased among painful TJR patients. TNFR1 was significantly elevated in those with painful TJRs, and IL-1rII was modestly elevated. The authors note that treating this “1-2 punch” of elevated proinflammatory cytokines and decreased anti-inflammatory cytokines may require “a complex pattern” of both inhibition of proinflammatory mechanisms as well as anti-inflammatory medications.
In a separate study, investigators used scanning electron microscopy (SEM) to try to determine whether implant corrosion was secondary to inflammatory cellular reactions or to the effects of electrocautery used in near proximity to metallic surfaces2. Twelve knee prostheses taken at necropsy were compared to an off-the-shelf cobalt-chromium knee implant intentionally exposed to Bovie and Aquamantys electrocautery sources. SEM data was collected using an identical method to that of the retrieved implants. Five of the 12 necropsy retrievals showed signs of inflammatory cell-induced corrosion. Compared to the necropsy-retrieved implants, the iron/carbon ratio of the Bovie electrocautery-damaged implant was significantly higher, suggesting that the mechanism by which immune cells corrode implants is different than the mechanism of electrocautery damage.
In a third study, which compared results of lymphocyte transformation testing (LTT) for metal sensitivity with histological and clinical findings in 27 cases of primary total knee arthroplasty (TKA), researchers found that LTT results alone were insufﬁcient for the diagnosis of TKA pain-relief failure due to an immune reaction3. A positive LTT might not indicate that an immune reaction is the cause of pain and stiffness post-TKA.
It will take more research to determine whether there is a connection between surface pitting and chronic knee pain in metal-sensitive persons, whether the elevated macrophage response is an associated risk factor, and whether that is associated with metallic material response.
- Lauryn S, Caicedo M, Jacobs J, Hallab NJ. Do TJR Patients with High Self-Reported Pain Levels Exhibit Decreased Serum Anti-inflammatory Cytokine Markers? Abstract 0135 Orthopaedic Research Society 2019
- Sorrels JA, Heise G, Morrow B, Arnholt C, Kurtz S, Mihalko WM. Inflammatory Cell- Induced Corrosion and Electrocautery Damaged TKA Implants. Abstract 0131 Orthopaedic Research Society 2019
- Yang S, Dipane M, Lu CH, Schmalzried TP, McPherson EJ. Lymphocyte Transformation Testing (LTT) in Cases of Pain Following Total Knee Arthroplasty: Little Relationship to Histopathologic Findings and Revision Outcomes. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2019 Feb 6;101(3):257-264. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.18.00134. PMID: 30730485
The main advantage of joint registries is their large number of recorded procedures, ideally with very few patient “types” not represented in the database. This is the case with the Australian Orthopaedic Association National Joint Replacement Registry, which includes data on almost 100% of all joint replacements performed in Australia since 2002. In the February 20, 2019 issue of The Journal, Jorgenson et al. analyze almost 6,000 major aseptic total knee arthroplasty (TKA) revisions from a cohort of 478,000 primary TKAs registered between 1999 and 2015. This analysis provides robust benchmark data for patients and surgeons, although it comes too late for the 3% of patients who required such a revision surgery within the 15-year study period.
The authors found that fixed bearings were revised for aseptic reasons at a significantly lower rate than mobile bearings (2.7% vs 4.1%, respectively) and that patients <55 years old had an almost 8-fold higher revision rate compared to patients ≥75 years old ( 7.8% versus 1.0%, respectively). The study also found lower aseptic revision rates with minimally stabilized total knee prostheses compared to posterior-stabilized prostheses, and higher aseptic revision rates with completely cementless fixation relative to either hybrid or fully cemented fixation. These are valuable data for arthroplasty surgeons in terms of selecting implants and surgical techniques and for preoperative counseling of patients—especially younger ones. While many of these findings have been previously reported, these registry-based results add significant strength to published data.
Ideally, data such as these would be controlled for confounding variables such as surgeon experience and additional patient-specific variables such as activity demands and medical comorbidities. Still, these data provide useful prosthesis-specific factors for shared decision making with patients. We look forward to more helpful information from this and other national joint registries and encourage the continued growth of similar registries in other subspecialties.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
The anticipation of postoperative pain associated with a large operation such as a total knee arthroplasty (TKA) scares many patients. Some worry to the point of “catastrophizing” pain prior to surgery. As orthopaedic surgeons, we try to assuage our patients’ fears through preoperative education and multimodal pain-management modalities after surgery, but there are still some patients in whom the fear of pain—and the pain itself that inevitably accompanies arthroplasty— negatively affect their outcome. Preparing such patients for surgery and helping them recover afterward despite this high anxiety are big challenges for the orthopaedic care team. Some data suggest that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) might help.
However, a multisite randomized trial by Riddle et al. published in the February 6, 2019 issue of JBJS did not find any differences in pain or function among patients with moderate to high preoperative pain catastrophizing scores who underwent a form of CBT focused on pain coping skills, when their outcomes were compared to those of similar patients in “usual care” or “arthritis education” arms of the study. Each group had similar WOMAC pain scores and pain catastrophizing scores to start, and all patients were found to have significant but very similar decreases in their pain scores at 2, 6, and 12 months postoperatively. Independent assessors determined that the quality of the intervention in the coping-skills and arthritis-education arms was high, suggesting that it was not poor-quality interventions that accounted for the consistent similarities among the 3 groups.
While there are many physiological and psychological factors contributing to an individual’s experience of pain, the results of this study ran surprisingly counter to prior evidence. The authors speculate that differences between the 3 groups may have been masked by the fact that all patients had such a large decrease in pain after the TKA. While that would appear to be good news, we know that there is a stubbornly large subset of patients (cited in this article as 20%) who undergo a technically and radiographically ”successful” knee arthroplasty only to have continued pain without an obvious cause. (See related OrthoBuzz Editor’s Choice post.)
These findings lead me to believe a statement that probably cannot be proven: there are some patients who will experience function-limiting pain no matter what surgery is performed, no matter which drugs are administered, and no matter what rehabilitative therapy is provided. Learning how to identify those patients and clearly communicating expectations to them pre- and postoperatively might help improve their satisfaction with their procedure.
Chad A. Krueger, 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 one of 13 subspecialties. Click here for a collection of all OrthoBuzz subspecialty summaries. This month, Michael J. Taunton, MD, author of the January 16, 2019 “What’s New in Adult Reconstructive Knee Surgery,” selected the five most compelling findings from among the more than 100 noteworthy studies summarized in the article.
Cementless vs Cemented TKA Fixation
—A matched case-control study of 400 primary total knee arthroplasties (TKAs) found that cementless TKAs had a 0.5% rate of aseptic loosening over a mean follow-up of 2.5 years, while cemented TKAs had an aseptic loosening rate of 2.5%.1
TKA Component Size in Obese Patients
—Among 35 revision-TKA patients with a varus collapse of the tibia, 29 weighed >200 lbs. Fehring et al. found that patients with implants at the small end of the range of the manufacturer’s tibial size offering and with >5° of preoperative varus were at increased risk of tibial-component failure.2
—A retrospective multivariate analysis of >4,300 patients who underwent outpatient TKA and >128,900 patients who underwent inpatient TKA found that, within 1 year, those who had outpatient procedures were more likely to experience a tibial and/or femoral component revision due to a noninfectious cause, irrigation and debridement, explantation of the prosthesis, and stiffness requiring manipulation under anesthesia.
—In a randomized trial of patients undergoing TKA, one group received 15 mg/kg of systemic intravenous vancomycin, and a second group received intraosseous regional administration of 500 mg vancomycin into the tibia. Mean tissue concentrations of the antibiotic were 34.4 mg/g in the intraosseous group and 6.1 mg/g in the intravenous group, suggesting that intraosseous administration provides a significantly higher tissue concentration of that antibiotic. 3
TKA Anesthesia Protocol
—A retrospective review of 156 consecutive patients who underwent primary TKA found that procedures performed with mepivacaine spinal anesthesia led to fewer episodes of urinary catheterization and shorter mean length of stay compared with procedures performed with bupivacaine spinal anesthesia.4
- Miller AJ, Stimac JD, Smith LS, Feher AW, Yakkanti MR, Malkani AL. Results of cemented vs cementless primary total knee arthroplasty using the same implant design. J Arthroplasty.2018 Apr;33(4):1089-93. Epub 2017 Dec
- Fehring TK, Fehring KA, Anderson LA, Otero JE, Springer BD. Catastrophic varus collapse of the tibia in obese total knee arthroplasty. J Arthroplasty.2017 May;32(5):1625-9. Epub 2017 Jan 30.
- Chin SJ, Moore GA, Zhang M, Clarke HD, Spangehl MJ, Young SW. The AAHKS Clinical Research Award: intraosseous regional prophylaxis provides higher tissue concentrations in high BMI patients in total knee arthroplasty: a randomized trial. J Arthroplasty.2018 Jul;33(7S):S13-8. Epub 2018 Mar 15.
- Mahan MC, Jildeh TR, Tenbrunsel TN, Davis JJ. Mepivacaine spinal anesthesia facilitates rapid recovery in total knee arthroplasty compared to bupivacaine. J Arthroplasty.2018 Jun;33(6):1699-704. Epub 2018 Jan 16.
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
Many older patients present to orthopaedic surgeons with clinical knee pain suggestive of osteoarthritis (OA) but with little or no radiographic evidence of disease. And a substantial proportion of those patients do not respond adequately to the recommended, first-line nonsurgical treatment approaches to knee OA. A prognostic study by Everhart et al. in the January 2, 2019 issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery helps explain why that might be.
The authors evaluated baseline knee radiographs and MRIs from >1,300 older adults (mean age of 61 years) who were enrolled in the Osteoarthritis Initiative, a multicenter observational cohort study with a median of 9 years of follow-up data. They sought to determine independent risk factors for progression to total knee arthroplasty (TKA) among this cohort, all of whom showed Kellgren-Lawrence grade 0 to 3 OA on knee radiographs. MRIs taken at baseline revealed that 38% of those patients had a full-thickness knee-cartilage defect. After the authors adjusted for various confounders (including age, weight, and symptom severity), they found that regardless of radiographic grade, the presence of a full-thickness cartilage defect was a strong independent risk factor for subsequent TKA. Moreover, patients with a defect ≥2 cm2 had twice the risk of arthroplasty compared with patients with defects <2 cm2.
According to the authors, the findings highlight the “greater importance of full-thickness cartilage loss over radiographic OA grade as a determinant of OA severity, specifically regarding the risk of future knee arthroplasty in older adults.” In his commentary on this study, Drew A. Lansdown, MD emphasizes that Everhart et al. “do not advocate for the routine use of MRI in the diagnosis of knee osteoarthritis,” but he says the findings “do suggest that early MRI may have a diagnostic role for patients who are not responding as expected to nonoperative measures.” Noting that the patients in this cohort would probably not be ideal candidates for current cartilage-restoration procedures, Dr. Lansdown encourages further research focused on identifying “patient-specific factors that can match patients with the treatment…that will provide the greatest likelihood of symptom relief and functional improvement.”