Observational studies have identified surgical factors that are associated with a reduced risk of mortality after joint replacement. It is not clear whether these are causal or reflect patient selection. Data on the first primary hip (n=424,156) and knee replacements (n=469,989) performed for osteoarthritis in the National Joint Registry were analysed. Flexible parametric survival modelling was used to determine if risk factors for mortality in the perioperative period persisted. To explore selection bias, standardised mortality ratios were calculated for all-cause, respiratory and smoking related cancer mortality using population rates. Selection was apparent for hip resurfacing, combined spinal and general anaesthetic and unicondylar knee implants; reduced mortality was observed for many years for both all and other causes of mortality with a waning effect. Mechanical thromboprophylaxis was also suggestive of selection although patients receiving aspirin had sustained reduced mortality, possibly due to to a cardioprotective effect. Posterior approach for hips was ambiguous with a possible causal component. Spinal anaesthesia was suggestive of a causal effect. We are reliant on observational data when it is not feasible to undertake randomised trials. Our approach of looking at long term mortality risks for perioperative interventions provides further insights to differentiate causal interventions from selection. We recommend the use of aspirin chemothromboprophylaxis, the posterior approach and spinal anaesthetic in total hip replacement due to the apparent causal effect on reduced mortality.
- Centre for Surgical Research