Ten-year epidemiological study in an orthopaedic and trauma surgery centre: Are there risks involved in increasing scheduled arthroplasty volume without increasing resources?

  • Erivan Roger
  • Chaput Thibault
  • Villatte Guillaume
  • Ollivier Matthieu
  • Descamps Stephane
  • Boisgard Stephane


Background: Current trends in patient management include decreasing hospital stay lengths and reductions in available material and human resources. A shortening of hospital stays in university hospitals has been documented over the last decade. However, to our knowledge, no study has assessed possible relationships linking shorter stays to staffing levels or complication rates. The objectives of this study were: 1) to assess changes in case volume in a university orthopaedics and trauma surgery department between 2006 and 2016, 2) and to look for correlations linking these changes to staffing levels and the rates of significant complications, including the number of hip dislocations after total hip arthroplasty (THA) and the number of infections and complications resulting in malpractice litigation after hip, knee, or shoulder arthroplasty. Hypothesis: The case volume increased during the study period, whereas resources remained unchanged or decreased. Material and methods: A retrospective study was performed using the electronic database of an orthopaedics and trauma surgery department. Data collected between 2006 and 2016 were analysed. Mean hospital stay length, patient age, and surgical volume were recorded, and changes over time in case volume for trauma surgery and scheduled arthroplasties were evaluated. Changes in staffing levels and rates of complications (dislocation after THA and infections and complications resulting in malpractice litigation) between 2006 and 2016 were assessed. Only arthroplasty procedures performed in the department were considered for the study of complications and litigation. Results: Between 2006 and 2016, mean hospital stay decreased from 8.7 + 10.8 days (range, 0-141 days) in to 7.0 + 9.4 days (range, 0-150 days). Mean patient age increased from 54.4 + 21.2 years (range, 11.7-100.9 years) in 2006 to 59.3 + 20.9 years (range, 13.2-103.1 years) in 2016. The total number of procedures rose from 2158 in 2006 to 3100 in 2016 (+43.6%). The number of THAs increased by 16.2% and the number of total knee arthroplasties by 96.7%. The number of operations for trauma increased from 725 in 2006 to 1135 in 2016 (+56.0%). During the study period, the number of hospital beds declined from 70 to 55. No increase was seen in the frequencies of dislocation after THA (3/284 [1.4%] in 2006 and 4/330 [1.2%] in 2016) or prosthetic joint infection (5/439 [1.1%] in 2006 and 6/657 [0.9%] in 2016). In contrast, malpractice suits filed by patients after arthroplasty increased from 1/439 (0.2%) in 2006 to 8/657 (1.2%) in 2016. Conclusion: Over the last decade, trauma and arthroplasty surgical volumes increased substantially, whereas staffing levels remained unchanged and number of beds diminished. The frequency of significant complications such as dislocation after THA did not increase. In contrast, a marked rise was seen in malpractice litigation. However, the increased volume with unchanged resources found in this study should be interpreted in the light of the marked increase in patient dependency and of our role as a referral centre managing patients with complications after surgery performed at other institutions. Level of evidence: IV, retrospective observational study.