What is the Utility Of a Limb Lengthening and Reconstruction Service in an Academic Department of Orthopaedic Surgery?
Limb lengthening and reconstruction surgery is a relatively new subspecialty of orthopaedic surgery in the United States. Despite increased awareness and practice of the specialty, it is rarely vested as a separate clinical service in an academic department of orthopaedic surgery. We have had experience growing such a dedicated service within an academic department of orthopaedic surgery over the past 9 years.
We explored (1) the use of a limb deformity service (LDS) in an academic department of orthopaedic surgery by examining data on referral patterns, our clinical volume, and academic productivity; and (2) the surgical breadth of cases comprising the patients of the LDS in an academic department of orthopaedic surgery by examining data on caseload by anatomic sites, category, and surgical techniques/tools.
We (SRR, ATF, EWB) retrospectively examined data on numbers of surgical cases and outpatient visits from the limb lengthening and complex reconstruction service at the Hospital for Special Surgery from 2005 to 2013 to evaluate growth. We studied 672 consecutive surgical cases performed by our service for a sample period of 1 year, assessing referral patterns within and outside our medical center, anatomic region, surgical category, and surgical technique/tool. Academic productivity was measured by review of our service's publications.
During the time period studied (2005-2013), outpatient and surgical volume significantly increased by 120% (1530 to 3372) and 105% (346 to 708), respectively, on our LDS. Surgical volume growth was similar to the overall growth of the department of orthopaedic surgery. Referrals were primarily from orthopaedic surgeons (56%) and self/Internet research (25%). Physician referrals were predominantly from our own medical center (83%). Referrals from within our institution came from a variety of clinical services. Forty-nine peer-reviewed articles and 23 book chapters were published by staff members of our service. Anatomic surgical sites, surgical categories, and technique/tools used on our LDS were diverse, yet procedures were specialized to the discipline of limb deformity.
There is a substantial role for an LDS within an academic department of orthopaedic surgery. With establishment of a dedicated service comes focus and resources that establish an environment for growth in volume, intramural and extramural referral, and purposeful research and education. The majority of referrals were from orthopaedic surgeons from our own medical center, suggesting needfulness. The LDS provides patients access to specialized surgery. The number of intramural referrals suggests that the specialty service helps retain patients within our academic orthopaedic department. Future research will try to determine if such a dedicated service leads to improved outcomes, efficiency, and value.
Level IV, retrospective study.