Background: Routine radiographs have historically been obtained during routine care after total joint arthroplasty (TJA). However, substantial improvements in surgical technique, biomaterials, and changes in payment models placing greater emphasis on value have occurred. Recently, there has been interest in a transition to performing follow-up visits virtually. The purpose of this study was to assess how frequently patients attend postoperative appointments and the clinical utility of routine radiographs after TJA.
Methods: Patients undergoing primary total hip arthroplasty and total knee arthroplasty at a single tertiary institution in 2018 were included. Patients attending scheduled follow-up at 6 to 12 weeks and 1 year were assessed. Retrospective chart review was conducted to determine whether abnormalities were noted on routine radiographic surveillance by the orthopedic surgeons or radiologist and if any radiographic findings altered clinical management.
Results: A total of 938 TJAs were performed, and 885 met inclusion criteria, with 423 (47.8%) total hip arthroplasties and 462 (52.2%) total knee arthroplasties. Eight hundred sixty-five (97.7%) patients attended a follow-up visit at 6 or 12 weeks and 589 (66.6%) attended at 1 year postoperatively. A single radiographic abnormality was detected, occurring at the 6- to 12-week period by the radiologist and interpreted as being an artifact by the surgeon. No additional radiographic abnormalities were detected at 1 year. Information from radiographs did not change clinical management for any patients.
Conclusion: In a large cohort of patients, routine radiographic surveillance did not detect any true abnormalities during the first year after primary TJA. For patients without symptoms attributable to the TJA prosthesis, conducting virtual care visits without routine radiographs may be considered.
Keywords: radiographic surveillance; radiographs; routine follow-up; total hip arthroplasty; total knee arthroplasty.
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