The Journal of Arthroplasty, Volume 34, Issue 6, 1233 - 1239

A Simple Protocol to Stratify Pulmonary Risk Reduces Complications After Total Joint Arthroplasty

Grau, Luis et al.
Hip Knee


Pulmonary complications after total joint arthroplasty are a burden to patients and the healthcare system. The aim of this study is to demonstrate the effectiveness of a pulmonary screening questionnaire and intervention protocol developed at our institution to prevent pulmonary complications.


Between 2010 and 2015, 7658 consecutive total joint arthroplasty patients at our institution were reviewed. Based on our pre-operative pulmonary risk assessment tool, 1625 patients were flagged as high pulmonary risk. Patients were determined to be high risk if they were a current or former heavy smoker with an abnormal spirometry, had a positive obstructive sleep apnea screening, required continuous positive airway pressure/bi-level positive airway pressure use, had a history of significant pulmonary disease, had an oxygen saturation <90%, or had body mass index >40. A standardized monitoring protocol and interventions including smoking cessation, treatment and optimization of primary pulmonary conditions, peri-operative inhaler use, spinal anesthesia, aspiration precautions, elevated head of bed >20° resting and >45° while eating, maintaining oxygen saturation ≥92%, early use of incentive spirometer, avoidance of narcotics and early respiratory therapy consult were initiated for all high risk patients.


Only 7 of 7658 (0.091%) patients suffered pulmonary complications after initiating our intervention protocol. These included 3 aspiration pneumonias, 1 asthma exacerbation, 1 chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbation, 1 continuous positive airway pressure intolerance in a patient with obstructive sleep apnea, and 1 requirement of bi-level positive airway pressure. The pulmonary risk questionnaire accurately identified all patients who had pulmonary complications. The overall pulmonary complication rate at our institution decreased from 5.7% to 0.09% after implementing our screening questionnaire and intervention protocol ( P < .0001).


Our results demonstrate a more than 63-fold reduction in pulmonary complications at our institution. Our screening questionnaire and intervention protocol is an effective way of identifying and preventing pulmonary complications.

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