Conference Coverage

Expert offers caveats to perioperative antirheumatic drug guideline



The latest guideline for perioperative management of antirheumatic medication in patients undergoing total hip (THA) and total knee arthroplasty (TKA) offers recommendations based on the latest evidence, but many of those recommendations are based on a low level of evidence, according to a speaker at the 2023 Rheumatology Winter Clinical Symposium.

Martin Bergman, MD, clinical professor of medicine at Drexel University, Philadelphia, said the development of the American College of Rheumatology/American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons guideline was necessary because there was a lack of consensus on when to stop treatments prior to patients with rheumatologic disease undergoing THA and TKA, and when it was appropriate to restart those treatments.

“We all were having the same problem, and I think everybody recognized that just stopping medicines forever didn’t make sense, but maybe continuing medicines also didn’t make sense,” Dr. Bergman said.

While the 2017 ACR/AAHKS perioperative management guideline contained good recommendations, the “explosion” of new medications in rheumatology made it necessary to update the guideline with the latest data on new medications such as immunosuppressants.

2022 guideline recommendations

In the 2022 guideline, which covers disease-modifying treatments taken by patients with rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthritis, and psoriatic arthritis, the authors reaffirmed their recommendations to continue methotrexate, sulfasalazine, hydroxychloroquine, leflunomide, and apremilast through total joint arthroplasty.

Where the 2022 guideline differs from the 2017 guideline is in which biologics are covered and under what circumstances they should be withheld and restarted around surgery. The 2022 guideline includes recommendations for abatacept, adalimumab, anakinra, certolizumab pegol, etanercept, golimumab, guselkumab, infliximab, ixekizumab, rituximab, secukinumab, tocilizumab, and ustekinumab. Each biologic has its own recommended stop and restart times based around the dosing interval and respective method of administration. Dr. Bergman said a general rule with biologics under the new guideline is that the timing of surgery should occur approximately 1 week after the first missed dose of the medication. The only biologic that does not follow this pattern is rituximab, where surgery should be planned for 1 month after the last missed dose.

Dr. Bergman noted that how the guidelines handle interval dosing with infliximab may present a problem. The guideline provides recommendations for patients receiving infliximab every 4 weeks, every 6 weeks, and every 8 weeks. However, Dr. Bergman said this can create a scenario where a patient receiving infliximab at a dose of 3 mg/kg every 8 weeks has surgery at 9 weeks, a patient receiving 5 mg/kg every 6 weeks has surgery at 7 weeks, and a patient receiving 10 mg/kg every 4 weeks has surgery at 5 weeks. “There is some intellectual problem with it,” he said.

Another change from the 2017 guideline is how long to wait for surgery after stopping Janus kinase inhibitors. While the 2017 guideline recommended withholding JAK inhibitors 7 days before surgery, the 2022 guideline lowered that waiting period to 3 days, Dr. Bergman explained.

Concerning use of steroids around THA and TKA surgery, “the days of stress steroid dosing are done,” Dr. Bergman said. “You don’t have to stress dose them. You just follow them, and you keep them on their steroid dose.”

The new guideline recommends restarting therapy once the wound is healed and there is no physical evidence of infection at approximately 2 weeks. “There’s no data to support this,” he said, and his concern is that patients who have stopped a tumor necrosis factor inhibitor may flare if they don’t restart their medication.

While the guideline also covered recommendations for systemic lupus erythematosus, they are “very similar” to the recommendations for inflammatory arthritis, Dr. Bergman noted. “If you have somebody who is not very sick, you stop the medications,” he said, “but try to stop anything else about a week before the surgery. If they’re sick, you basically have to keep them on their medications.”


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