The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery; May 6, 2020; 102 (9): 778

A Randomized Trial of Static and Articulating Spacers for the Treatment of Infection Following Total Knee Arthroplasty

Nahhas Cindy R., BS; Chalmers Peter N., MD; Parvizi Javad, MD; Sporer Scott M., MD; Berend Keith R., MD; Moric Mario, MA; Chen Antonia F., MD, MBA; Austin Matthew S., MD; Deirmengian Gregory K., MD; Morris Michael J., MD; Della Valle Craig J., MD
Background: There is no consensus whether the interim antibiotic spacer utilized in the 2-stage exchange arthroplasty should immobilize the joint or allow for motion. The purpose of this multicenter, randomized clinical trial was to compare static and articulating spacers as part of the 2-stage exchange arthroplasty for the treatment of chronic periprosthetic joint infection complicating total knee arthroplasty as defined with use of Musculoskeletal Infection Society criteria.
Methods: Sixty-eight patients undergoing 2-stage exchange arthroplasty were randomized to either a static (32 patients) or an articulating (36 patients) spacer. An a priori power analysis determined that 28 patients per group would be necessary to detect a 13° difference in range of motion between groups. Six patients were excluded after randomization, 6 died, and 7 were lost to follow-up before 2 years.
Results: Patients in the static group had a hospital length of stay that was 1 day greater than the articulating group after stage 1 (6.1 compared with 5.1 days; 95% confidence interval [CI], 5.3 to 6.9 days and 4.6 to 5.6 days, respectively; p = 0.032); no other differences were noted perioperatively. At a mean of 3.5 years (range, 2.0 to 6.4 years), 49 patients were available for evaluation. The mean motion arc was 113.0° (95% CI, 108.4° to 117.6°) in the articulating spacer group, compared with 100.2° (95% CI, 94.2° to 106.1°) in the static spacer group (p = 0.001). The mean Knee Society Score was higher in the articulating spacer cohort (79.4 compared with 69.8 points; 95% CI, 72.4 to 86.3 and 63.6 to 76.1, respectively; p = 0.043). Although not significantly different with the sample size studied, static spacers were associated with a greater need for an extensile exposure at the time of reimplantation (16.7% compared with 4.0%; 95% CI, 0.6% to 38.9% and 0.5% to 26.3%, respectively; p = 0.189) and a higher rate of reoperation (25.0% compared with 8.0%; 95% CI, 9.8% to 46.7% and 1.0% to 26.0%, respectively; p = 0.138).
Conclusions: Articulating spacers provided significantly greater range of motion and higher Knee Society scores at a mean of 3.5 years. Static spacers were associated with a longer hospital stay following removal of the infected implant. When the soft-tissue envelope allows and if there is adequate osseous support, an articulating spacer is associated with improved outcomes.
Level of Evidence: Therapeutic Level I. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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