Background — Unplanned visits to the emergency department after total joint arthroplasty are far more common than unplanned readmissions. Our objectives were to characterize the prevalence of presentation to an emergency department for any reason after total joint arthroplasty and to identify risk factors for such visits.
Methods — Using health administrative databases, we conducted a population-based retrospective cohort study of adults (19–89 yr of age) who received their first primary elective total hip arthroplasty (THA) or total knee arthroplasty (TKA) procedure for arthritis between April 2011 and March 2016 in Ontario. We made univariate comparisons between patients who presented to the emergency department within 30 days of surgery and those who did not in. We determined differences in use of health care services between groups by comparing the change in use in the year before and after surgery between patients who presented to the emergency department and those who did not. We developed logistic regression models for the occurrence of an emergency department visit using backward variable elimination.
Results — We identified 42 273 total hip recipients and 70 725 total knee recipients, of whom 5640 (13.3%) and 11 224 (15.9%), respectively, presented to the emergency department within 30 days of surgery. Fewer than 1% of these patients required admission, and nearly half (45%) went to a different institution from where they had their surgery. Among both THA and TKA recipients, patients who presented to the emergency department had a net increase in their median annual health care costs (THA: $501, TKA: $682), compared to a net decrease for the cohort as a whole. Factors associated with increased risk of an emergency visit included increased patient age, male sex, rural residence and various comorbidities. Predictive regression models showed poor discriminative ability for both THA (C-statistic 0.57) and TKA (C-statistic 0.58) recipients.
Interpretation — One in 7 patients presented to the emergency department within 30 days of THA or TKA. Some may conceivably have been managed remotely, and very few required readmission. There is a crucial need for strategies to minimize these events.
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