UMEM Educational Pearls - Orthopedics

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Osteoarthritis Part 2

Keywords: Osteoarthritis, treatment (PubMed Search)

Posted: 1/11/2014 by Brian Corwell, MD
Click here to contact Brian Corwell, MD

Topical agents: The most widely used preparations contain capsaicin, lidocaine and NSAIDs
These preparations have been shown to be efficacious in controlled double-blind studies of OA of the hand and knee (minimal overlying soft tissue).
Note: Some of the topical NSAIDs are as efficacious as oral NSAIDs (lower incidence GI side effects).
*Consider in older patient with OA of hand or knee*
Oral agents: Acetaminophen is still considered first line treatment for mild to moderate pain. It has a small but significant effect for pain but this did not carry over for stiffness or functional improvement.
NSAIDs: More efficacious than acetaminophen for pain. Consider first line for moderate to severe pain.
While all attempts should be made at avoiding NSAIDs in patients at risk of upper GI bleeding, the safest approach may be to use Celecoxib with a proton pump inhibitor.

Show References

No single feature of the history of physical examination reliably rules out ostemyelitis



Aids in making the diagnosis include:

An ulcer area larger than 2 cm2 (LR 7.2),

A positive probe to bone test (LR 6.4),

An ESR greater than 70 mm/h (LR 11)

Show References

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Osteoarthritis - Part 1

Keywords: Osteoarthritis, treatment (PubMed Search)

Posted: 12/14/2013 by Brian Corwell, MD (Updated: 6/13/2024)
Click here to contact Brian Corwell, MD

Treating knee osteoarthritis - from the American College of Rheumatology 

Exercise whether it be aquatic, aerobic (land -based) or resistance can decrease pain and improve functional capacity. Exercise should be performed 3 to 5 times a week. Effects are usually noted after 3 to 6 months.

Weight loss of 5% or greater body weight is associated with a small improvement in pain and physical function. The main benefit of weight loss has more to do to effects on co-morbid conditions.

Walking aids: A single crutch or cane should be held on the side contralateral to the affected knee and should be advanced with the affected limb when walking to reduce the load on the affected joint. 

Cane sizing: The distance from the floor to the patient's greater trochanter (brings the elbow to 15º to 20º of flexion.

Show References

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Posterior Shoulder Dislocation

Keywords: Posterior, Dislocation, Shoulder (PubMed Search)

Posted: 11/30/2013 by Michael Bond, MD (Updated: 6/13/2024)
Click here to contact Michael Bond, MD

Posterior Shoulder Dislocations

  • A rare type of shoulder dislocation
  • Accounts for 2-4% of all shoulder dislocations
  • Classic mechanism of injury is a seizure or electrocution
  • Reported to occur bilaterally in 15% of cases
  • Often missed on the initial visit.
  • Patient will complain of pain with movement of the shoulder and the arm is held in internal rotation.
  • Can be missed on the AP, lateral and Y-views of the shoulder.
  • Axillary or modified Axillary views are the best view to visualize a posterior shoulder dislocation. Shown below:

Axillary View of Shoulder

(A posterior shoulder dislocation will show the humeral head displayed superiorly in the image away from the clavicle which is the inferior most bone)

Some things to look for on the AP view that will suggest a posterior shoulder dislocation:

  • Lightbulb sign – The head of the humerus in the same axis as the shaft producing a lightbulb shape
  • The ‘rim sign’ – Widening of the glenohumeral space
  • The vacant glenoid sign – the anterior glenoid fossa appears empty

Life in the Fast Lane as a great discussion of posterior shoulder dislocations at

 Best way to make the diagnosis --- suspect it and get an axillary view.

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Exercise-induced laryngeal obstruction (EILO)

Keywords: bronchospasm, asthma, exercise-induced laryngeal obstruction (PubMed Search)

Posted: 11/23/2013 by Brian Corwell, MD
Click here to contact Brian Corwell, MD

Unexplained respiratory symptoms during exercise are often incorrectly considered secondary to exercise induced asthma/bronchospasm.

An important diagnosis on the differential should be exercise-induced laryngeal obstruction (EILO).

Of 91 athletes referred for asthma workup, 35% had EILO.

The presence of inspiratory symptoms did not differentiate athletes with and without EILO.

61% of athletes with EILO used regular asthma medication at referral.

Show References

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Compartment Syndrome

Keywords: Compartment Syndrome (PubMed Search)

Posted: 11/16/2013 by Michael Bond, MD (Updated: 6/13/2024)
Click here to contact Michael Bond, MD

Compartment Syndrome

Compartment syndrome is classically described as having the 6 Ps:

  • Pain out of proportion to what is expected
  • Pulselessness [Late finding that you hope to never see]
  • Paresthesia
  • Paralysis
  • Pallor
  • Pressure

The diagnosis of compartment syndrome can be difficult but ultimately it comes down to measuring the pressures in the area of concern.  Various recommendations of the allowed pressure can be found, but in general a fasciotomy is not needed if the compartment pressure is 30 mmHg less then the diastolic pressure (The Delta 30).  So if the patients diastolic pressure is 70, a fasciotomy is not need if the compartment pressure is less then 40.  

Finally, if you are suspecting compartment pressure do NOT elevate the limb.  Leave it in a dependent position to help improve blood flow into the limb.

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Cauda Equina

Keywords: back pain, cauda equina (PubMed Search)

Posted: 11/4/2013 by Brian Corwell, MD (Emailed: 11/9/2013) (Updated: 11/9/2013)
Click here to contact Brian Corwell, MD

Cauda equina syndrome results from compression of multiple lumbar and sacral nerve roots

Causes: Central disc herniation, spinal epidural abscess, malignancy, trauma, hematoma.

Consider this entity in those with back pain and radiculopathy at multiple spinal levels

Urinary retention occurs in >90% of patients

Saddle anesthesia occurs in 75%

Decreased rectal sphincter tone occurs in 60 to 80%

A post void residual volume <100 mL makes this entity very unlikely

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Lateral hip pain

Keywords: gluteus, trendelenberg test, hip pain (PubMed Search)

Posted: 10/26/2013 by Brian Corwell, MD (Updated: 6/13/2024)
Click here to contact Brian Corwell, MD

 Lateral hip pain



 Findings of weakness and/or pain while testing hip abduction may point to gluteus medius muscle dysfunction with associated with greater trochanteric pain syndrome.


The Trendelenburg test may help. The patient stands on the affected leg. A negative test result occurs when the pelvis rises on the opposite side. A positive test result occurs when the pelvis on the opposite side drops and indicates a weak or painful gluteus medius muscle.

Prior fracture represents the strongest predictor of stress fracture in both sexes

For girls:  Low body mass index, (<19), late menarche (age 15 or older), previous participation in gymnastics and dance.

For boys: increased number of seasons.

Participation in basketball appears protective in boys.

This may represent a modifiable risk factor for stress fractures.


Show References

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Thumb MCP joint arthritis

Keywords: Basilar joint, thumb, arthritis, Basal joint grind test (PubMed Search)

Posted: 9/14/2013 by Brian Corwell, MD
Click here to contact Brian Corwell, MD

The thumb MCP joint is subject to arthritric changes.

Sx's of arthritis will frequently present with pain in a similar region to deQuervain's disease.

The basal joint grind test

          Perform by stabilizing the triquetrum with your thumb and index finger and then dorsally subluxing the thumb metacarpal on the trapezium while providing compressive force with the opposite hand.

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Charcot Joints

Keywords: Charcot Joints (PubMed Search)

Posted: 8/17/2013 by Michael Bond, MD
Click here to contact Michael Bond, MD

Charcot Joint - Neuropathic arthropathy

A Charcot Joint is a progressive degeneration of a weight bearing joint that is normally seen in patients that have decreased peripheral sensation and proprioception.

Conditions associated with Charcot Joints are:
    •    Alcohol neuropathy
    •    Cerebral palsy
    •    Diabetes mellitus
    •    Spinal Cord Injury
    •    Strokes
    •    Syphilis (tabes dorsalis)

The foot is most commonly affected and radiographs can also show bony destruction, bone resorption, and gross deformity. The onset of pain and deformity is typically insidious.  Charcot joints are often associated with ulcerations, secondary osteomyelitis, and can lead to amputations.

Charcot Joint

It is important to recognize the presence of a Charcot Joint so that the patient can be referred to Orthopaedics and treated (often with cast immobilization) to prevent further destruction of the joint.

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Trigger FInger

Keywords: Trigger finger, flexor tendon, locked finger (PubMed Search)

Posted: 8/8/2013 by Brian Corwell, MD (Emailed: 8/10/2013) (Updated: 6/13/2024)
Click here to contact Brian Corwell, MD

The flexor tendons of the finger may become thickened and narrowed from chronic inflammation and irritation.

 - Causes limitation in range of motion and snapping or locking during flexion

 - Can involve any digit but usually the ring and the long finger

CC: pain, "catching" May awake to finger being "locked" with spontaneous resolution during the day

Stenosis occurs at the MCP level

PE: Distal flexor crease tender to palpation and may have a painful nodule 

Full finger flexion is sometimes not possible

Tx: NSAIDs and steroid injection in tendon sheath. If this fails - surgical release.

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Dupuytren Disease

Keywords: Hand nodules, contactures (PubMed Search)

Posted: 7/28/2013 by Brian Corwell, MD (Updated: 6/13/2024)
Click here to contact Brian Corwell, MD

Dupuytren disease is a nodular thickening and resultant contraction of the palmer fascia.

Increased in those of Northern European dissent.

One or more painful nodules located near the distal palmer crease.

Over time may result in flexion at the MCP joint.

Most commonly affects the ring finger.

Sensation is normal.

Over time affects ADLs

Tx: night splints and surgery

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Froments Sign

Keywords: ulnar nerve, entrapment (PubMed Search)

Posted: 7/13/2013 by Brian Corwell, MD (Updated: 6/13/2024)
Click here to contact Brian Corwell, MD

Tests for distal ulnar nerve entrapment

Ask patient to hold a piece of paper between the thumb and the index finger

Normally this is a fairly simple task.

With an unlar nerve palsy, the patient will substitute with the FPL (flexor pollicis longus - median nerve innervation). This causes flexion of the thumb in order to maintain the grip since the adductor pollicis cannot be used. This causes thumb flexion rather than extension.

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Sternal Fractures

Posted: 6/29/2013 by Michael Bond, MD (Updated: 6/13/2024)
Click here to contact Michael Bond, MD

Sternal fractures

  • Initially thought to be associated with high mortality due to associated injuries though newer studies show the mortality rate is about 1%.
  • Can be associated with
    • Rib fractures
    • Mediastinal injury
    • Cardiac Contusion
    • Pneumothorax
    • Aortic dissection
    • Pulmonary Contusion
  • The diagnosis can be made with plain radiographs, but a fracture can be missed on a regular PA and Lateral Chest Xray.  Ask for dedicated sternal views to better define the fracture
    • CT Chest is only needed if you are concerned about associated injuries
  • Obtain an ECG on arrival and at 6 hours to ensure there are no signs of a myocardial contusion
    • ST segment changes, arrhthymias
  • Treatment is supportive. Provide adequate pain control and treat associated injuries

Show References

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Bedside tests for Tennis Elbow

Keywords: Tennis Elbow, ECRB tendon (PubMed Search)

Posted: 6/22/2013 by Brian Corwell, MD
Click here to contact Brian Corwell, MD

Tennis Elbow

The tendon usually involved in tennis elbow is called the Extensor Carpi Radialis Brevis (ECRB).

 The ECRB  muscle helps stabilize the wrist when the elbow is straight.

Ask the patient to straighten the arm at the elbow and then perform resisted long finger extension. This will stress the ECRB and reproduce the pain. One can also ask the patient to lift the top of a chair in the air with the elbow extended.

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Trapezium Fractures

Keywords: Trapezium, Fracture (PubMed Search)

Posted: 6/15/2013 by Michael Bond, MD
Click here to contact Michael Bond, MD

Trapezium Fractures

  • The trapezial body is often fractured due to an axial load through the thumb
  • The trapezial ridge is often fractured during a fall on an outstretched hand
  • Accounts for 1% to 5% of all carpal fractures.

Suspect the Diagnosis when you note

  • Tenderness  over trapezium 
  • Often have increased pain with axial loading of thumb.
  • Point tenderness at the volar base of the thumb just distal to the scaphoid, at the base of the first metacarpal.
  • Since the trapezium is obscured by superimposed bones in PA and lateral views, fractures are most easily identified on the oblique radiographs

If you are suspected the diagnosis oblique radiographs or a CT scan of the wrist will note the fracture the best.

Treatment consists of placing the patient in a thumb spica splint.

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Effects of Concussion on the Adolescent Brain

Keywords: Concussion, Adolscents (PubMed Search)

Posted: 6/8/2013 by Brian Corwell, MD (Updated: 6/9/2013)
Click here to contact Brian Corwell, MD

The adolescent brain has not yet reached full maturation and is in a period of rapid development from ages 14 - 16. 

Adolescents have been found to be more sensitive to the effects of concussion than adults

Concussed adolescents have deficits in attention and executive function lasting up to 2 months post injury.

Be aware that the adolescent brain will require  extended recuperation time following injury

In the future, discharge instructions might need to say more than "don't get hit in the head till your headache goes away." Because of deficits in attention and executive function, physicians should consider recommendations about adolescents and jobs, school work and driving an automobile. 

Show References

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Adhesive Capulitis

Keywords: Frozen shoulder, adhesive capsulitis (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/25/2013 by Brian Corwell, MD (Updated: 6/13/2024)
Click here to contact Brian Corwell, MD

Adhesive capsulitis aka frozen shoulder

idiopathic loss of BOTH active and passive motion (this is a significant reduction of at least 50%)

               Motion is stiff and painful especially  at the extremes

Occurs due to thickening and contracture of the shoulder capsule

Affects patients between the ages of 40 and 60

Diabetes is the most common risk factor

Imaging is normal and only helpful to rule out other entities such as osteophytes, loose bodies etc.

Treatment includes NSAIDs, moist heat and physical therapy.

Patients should expect a recovery period of 1-2 years!

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Fabella Syndrome

Keywords: Fabella (PubMed Search)

Posted: 5/18/2013 by Michael Bond, MD (Updated: 6/13/2024)
Click here to contact Michael Bond, MD

Fabella Syndrome

The fabella is a sesamoid bone that is embedded in the tendon of the gastrocnemius muscle where the fibers of the popliteus, arcuate complex and the fibular-fabellar ligament attach.

Fabella syndrome is a painful condition of the posterolateral knee that is exacerbated when the knee is extended.  The pain can be exacerbated by palpation of the fabella and if it is compressed against the condyles. The condition is most common in adolescence, but occurs in adults too.

Consider this condition in patients with posterolateral knee pain, which can also be due to tears of the  posterior horn of the lateral meniscus, and tendonitis of the lateral head of the gastrocnemius.