Surgical treatment for knee osteoarthritis (OA) has become increasingly common. The many people who have damage to only one part of their joint (unicompartmental knee OA) are faced with three options—total knee arthroplasty (TKA), unicompartmental knee arthroplasty (UKA), or nonsurgical treatment. A study by Kazarian et al. in the October 3, 2018 issue of The Journal estimates the lifetime cost-effectiveness for those three options in patients from 40 to 90 years of age.
The authors used sophisticated computer modeling to estimate both direct costs (those related to medical/surgical care) and indirect costs (such as missed workdays) of the three options as a function of patient age at the time of treatment initiation. Here are the key findings:
- The surgical treatments were less expensive and provided patients from 40 to 69 years of age with a greater number of quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) than nonsurgical treatment.
- In patients 70 to 90 years of age, surgical treatments were still cost-effective compared with nonsurgical treatment, albeit less so than in younger patients. In this older age group, “cost-effectiveness ratios” of surgical treatment remained below a “willingness to-pay” threshold of $50,000 per QALY.
- When the two surgical treatments were compared to one another, UKA beat TKA decisively in cost-effectiveness among patients of any age.
After crunching more numbers, Kazarian et al. estimated that, by 2020, if all of the patients with unicompartmental knee OA who were candidates for UKA or TKA (a projected total of 120,000 to 210,000 people) received UKA, “it would lead to a lifetime cost savings of $987 million to $1.5 billion.
From these findings, the authors conclude that patients with unicompartmental knee OA should receive surgical treatment, preferably UKA, instead of nonsurgical treatment until the age of 70 years. After that age, all three options are reasonable from a cost-effectiveness perspective.
But perhaps the most important thing to remember about these findings is that they add information to—but should not replace—clinical decision-making based on complete and open communication between doctor and patient.
The recently launched JBJS Knee Spotlight offers highly relevant and potentially practice-changing knee content from the most trusted source of orthopaedic information.
Here are the five JBJS articles to which you will have full-text access through the Knee Spotlight during the month of March 2017:
- Improved Accuracy of Component Positioning with Robotic-Assisted Unicompartmental Knee Arthroplasty: Data from a Prospective, Randomized Controlled Study
- The Effect of Timing of Manipulation Under Anesthesia to Improve Range of Motion and Functional Outcomes Following Total Knee Arthroplasty
- Anatomic Single-Bundle ACL Reconstruction Is Possible with Use of the Modified Transtibial Technique: A Comparison with the Anteromedial Transportal Technique
- Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation in the Knee: Mid-Term to Long-Term Results
- Outcomes of Unicompartmental Knee Arthroplasty After Aseptic Revision to Total Knee Arthroplasty: A Comparative Study of 768 TKAs and 578 UKAs Revised to TKAs from the Norwegian Arthroplasty Register (1994 to 2011)
Knee studies offered on the JBJS Knee Spotlight will be updated monthly, so check the site often.
In the January 18, 2017 issue of JBJS, Krych et al. report on early and mid-term results of the two most common surgical procedures to help patients 55 years old and younger with varus knees and medial compartment osteoarthritis: unicompartmental knee arthroplasty (UKA) and proximal tibial osteotomy (PTO). PTO realigns the knee’s biomechanics by moving the weight-bearing line laterally toward the more normal side of the knee. UKA corrects the biomechanical issue and removes and resurfaces damaged tissue.
In this comparative cohort study of 240 patients between 18 and 55 years old, patients receiving UKA had better functional scores and reached a higher activity level early after surgery. UKA survivorship (defined as avoiding revision to total knee arthroplasty [TKA]) was 94% at an average of 5.8 years, while PTO survivorship was 77% at an average of 7.2 years.
The functional outcomes should come as no surprise, seeing as arthroplasty replaces/denervates the subchondral bone in the medial compartment, while also correcting the alignment issue. A reasonable trauma-related analog to this can be seen with total hip arthroplasty providing generally better functional outcomes for displaced femoral neck fractures than internal fixation because the latter approach does not anatomically restore hip biomechanics. In both those cases, the mechanics of a weight-bearing joint are maintained/improved without relying on bone to heal. In contrast, with PTO and other bone and joint “preservation” approaches, the natural mechanics are altered.
However, I do not think we should extend this argument beyond what these data from Krych et al. provide. The mean length of follow-up in the UKA group was only 5.8 years. We need 20- to 30-year results in that group so we can truly understand the risk of further arthroplasty revision, polyethylene replacement, periprosthetic fracture, etc. I therefore truly hope to see follow-up reporting in a decade on this cohort of patients.
We must also recognize that these patients were selected for a surgical intervention based on their functional demand. The baseline characteristics of both groups suggest that those who had higher loading “habits” received an osteotomy.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
OrthoBuzz occasionally receives posts from guest bloggers. This guest post comes from Richard Yoon, MD and Grigory Gershkovich, MD.
The AAOS recently reviewed the evidence for surgical management of osteoarthritis of the knee (SMOAK) and issued a set of appropriate use criteria (AUC) that help determine the appropriateness of clinical practice guidelines (CPGs). These AUC can be accessed on the OrthoGuidelines website: www.orthoguidelines.org/auc.
The AUC were developed after a panel of specialists reviewed the 2015 CPGs on SMOAK and made appropriateness assessments for a multitude of clinical scenarios and treatments. The panel found 21% of the voted-on items “appropriate”; 25% were designated “maybe appropriate,” and 54% were ranked as “rarely appropriate.”
Importantly, these AUC do not provide a substitute for surgical decision making. The physician should always determine treatment on an individual basis, ideally with the patient fully engaged in the decision.
This OrthoBuzz post summarizes some of the updated conclusions according to three clinical time points—pre-operative, peri-operative, and postoperative—specifying the strength of supporting evidence. This post is not intended to review appropriateness for every clinical scenario. We encourage physicians to explore the OrthoGuidelines website for complete AUC information.
Strong evidence: Obese patients exhibit minimal improvement after total knee arthroplasty
(TKA), and such patients should be counseled accordingly.
Moderate evidence: Diabetic patients have a higher risk of complications after TKA.
Moderate evidence: An 8-month delay to TKA does not worsen outcomes.
Strong evidence: Both peri-articular local anesthetics and peripheral nerve blocks decrease postoperative pain and opioid requirements.
Moderate evidence: Neuraxial anesthesia may decrease complication rates and improve select peri-operative outcomes.
Moderate evidence: Judicious use of tourniquets decreases blood loss, but tourniquets may also increase short-term post-operative pain.
Strong evidence: The use of tranexamic acid (TXA) reduces post-operative blood loss and the need for transfusions.
Strong evidence: Drains do not help reduce complications or improve outcomes.
Strong evidence: There is no difference in outcomes between cruciate-retaining and posterior stabilized implants.
Strong evidence: All-polyethylene and modular components yield similar outcomes.
Strong, moderate, and limited evidence to support either cemented or cementless techniques, as similar outcomes and complication rates were found.
Strong evidence: There is no difference in pain/function with patellar resurfacing.
Moderate evidence: Patellar resurfacing decreases 5-year re-operation rates.
Moderate evidence shows no difference between unicompartmental knee arthroplasty (UKA) and high tibial osteotomy (HTO).
Moderate evidence favors TKA over UKA to avoid future revisions.
Strong evidence against the use of intraoperative navigation and patient-specific instrumentation, as no difference in outcomes has been observed.
Strong evidence: Rehab/PT started on day of surgery reduces length of stay.
Moderate evidence: Rehab/PT started on day of surgery reduces pain and improves function.
Strong evidence: The use of continuous passive motion machines does not improve outcomes after TKA.
Richard Yoon, MD is a fellow in orthopaedic traumatology and complex adult reconstruction at Orlando Regional Medical Center.
Grigory Gershkovich, MD is chief resident at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. He will be completing a hand fellowship at the University of Chicago in 2017-2018.
“Necessity is the mother of invention.” In recent years, the demand for total hip, total knee, and unicompartmental knee arthroplasty has grown substantially. However, with limited resources and health-care budgets, there is a need to reduce hospital costs. To that end, a number of surgeons have begun to perform these procedures on an outpatient basis.
Indeed, as the demand for joint replacements grows, it will be imperative to improve patient safety and satisfaction while minimizing costs and optimizing the use of health-care resources. In order to accomplish this goal, surgical teams, nursing staff, and physiotherapists will need to work together to discharge patients from the hospital as soon as safely possible, including on the same day as the operation. The development of accelerated clinical pathways featuring a multidisciplinary approach and involving a range of health-care professionals will result in extensive preoperative patient education, early mobilization, and intensive physical therapy.
In the December 2016 issue of JBJS Reviews, Pollock et al. report on a systematic review that was performed to determine the safety and feasibility of outpatient total hip, total knee, and unicompartmental knee arthroplasty. The authors hypothesized that outpatient arthroplasty would be safe and feasible and that there would be similar complication rates, similar readmission and revision rates, similar clinical outcomes, and decreased costs in comparison with the findings associated with the inpatient procedure. The investigators demonstrated that, in selective patients, outpatient total hip, total knee, and unicompartmental knee arthroplasty can be performed safely and effectively.
A major caveat of this well-conducted study, however, is that, like any systematic review, its overall quality is based on the quality of the individual studies that make up the analysis. In this case, the studies included those that lacked sufficient internal validity, sample size, methodological consistency, and standardization of protocols and outcomes. Thus, going forward, there is a need for more rigorous and adequately powered randomized trials to definitively establish the safety, efficacy, and feasibility of outpatient hip and knee arthroplasty.
Thomas A. Einhorn, MD
Editor, JBJS Reviews
Sport activity continues to increase in priority in modern society. And with a concomitant increase in single-sport focus early in life and near year-round training, the incidence of knee injuries will also continue to increase. Among surgeons and patients, there has been some waning of interest in high tibial osteotomy (HTO) for the most common form of unicompartmental arthritis because results from unicompartmental arthroplasty keep improving, but HTO remains an appropriate choice for patients with very high functional demand.
In the September 21, 2016 issue of The Journal, Ekhtiari et al. report on the findings of a well-conducted systematic review on return-to-work and -sport outcomes of HTO. The authors found that more than four-fifths of patients returned to work or sport, usually within a year after surgery. Approximately four-fifths of patients returned to sport at a level equal to or greater than their preoperative level, and among non-military patients included in the review, 97.8% returned to work at an equal or greater level.
As with most systematic reviews in orthopaedic surgery, the basic concern here is with the quality of the literature that forms the basis of the analysis. The vast majority of studies included in the review were Level IV case series, which leads to concerns about selection and detection bias. Those concerns notwithstanding, a return to sport activity of 87% at a mean follow-up of longer than 5 years is remarkable.
We must recognize that patients who wish to return to sport are the most highly motivated population we serve. HTO should not fall off our radar screen of options for patients with high functional demand and medial compartment arthritis, for they can be some of the most satisfied patients we treat.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
Many surgeons recommend primary unilateral knee arthroplasty (UKA) over primary total knee arthroplasty (TKA) or tibial osteotomy for younger patients with unicompartmental knee osteoarthritis. Some do so believing that the results of any subsequent revision to TKA (UKA → TKA) will be better than a revision of a primary TKA to a second TKA (TKA → TKA).
A comparative, registry-based study by Leta et al. in the March 16, 2016 JBJS found that both revision categories yielded essentially the same outcomes. The authors found no significant differences between the two strategies in terms of overall implant survival rate or risk of re-revision, or in several patient-reported outcomes: the EuroQol EQ-5D, KOOS, and VAS pain and satisfaction scores. Two notable exceptions were as follows:
- The risk of re-revision was twice as high for TKA → TKA patients who were older than 70 years of age
- UKA → TKAs were more often re-revised because of a loose tibial component and pain alone, while TKA → TKAs were more often re-revised because of deep infection.
With few significant outcome differences, commentator Geoffrey Dervin, MD suggests that “patients facing the initial decision between UKA and TKA should focus more on differences in perioperative morbidity, clinical outcomes, and satisfaction” from the primary procedure rather than on the outcomes of revision should it be required.