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Newsflash: Major Social Media Buzz for Orthopedic RCTs!

Elizabeth Hofheinz, M.P.H., M.Ed.

Getting noticed amongst the noise is a struggle for anyone—even researchers. A team from Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, including a now-resident at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), set out to see if orthopedic randomized controlled trials (RCTs) would garner as much attention as non-orthopedic RCTs.

The study, “Orthopedic Randomized Controlled Trials Published in General Medical Journals Are Associated with Higher Altmetric Attention Scores and Social Media Attention,” appears in the September 18, 2020 edition of Arthroscopy.

Kyle Kunze, M.D. is an orthopaedic surgery resident at HSS and was a co-author on the study. He told OSN, “The publication of non-orthopedic randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in general medical journals has garnered much attention from members of the public and health policy experts; however, whether or not orthopedic RCTs garner the same attention is not well understood and may potentially impact future treatment depending on the readership that is reached.”

The team compared the Altmetric Attention Score (AAS) and citation rates between orthopedic and non-orthopedic RCTs from five high-impact medical journals: The New England Journal of Medicine), Lancet, Journal of the American Medical Association, Annals of Internal Medicine, and Archives of Internal Medicine between January 2011-December 2016.

They then identified general characteristics of these articles that were associated with greater exposure on social media; 9 orthopedic and 59 non-orthopedic RCTs were included.

“The mean AAS were significantly different (574±565.7 vs 256.9±222.3), whereas citation rate was not (192.2±117.1 vs 382.3±560.3), wrote the authors. “Orthopedic RCTs had a significantly greater number of mentions on Twitter and Facebook. A higher AAS significantly associated with a greater number of citations for orthopedic RCTs. The mean AAS of orthopedic RCTs favoring non-operative management (809.6±676.3) was greater than those favoring operative treatment (292.0±248.9) but was not statistically significant.”

Dr. Kunze commented to OSN: “The main findings were that (1) orthopaedic randomized controlled trials on average garnered significantly more attention on social media than did randomized controlled trials pertaining to other disciplines in medicine, particularly on Twitter and Facebook; and (2) orthopaedic studies pertaining to non-operative management had greater attention on social media than did orthopaedic studies that investigated the effect of a surgical intervention.”

“Orthopaedic surgeons, researchers and providers who publish RCTs in high impact medical journals can anticipate extensive social media attention for their articles relative to other non-orthopaedic RCTs in the same journals. Social media attention may be related to operative versus non-operative management topics. This study provides further evidence for the increasing use of the Altmetrics Attention Score (a metric of social media attention) and its association with citation accrual.”

Elizabeth Hofheinz

Two time winner of the MORE award Ms. Hofheinz was the first writer employed by Orthopedics This Week. The MORE award is granted annually by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons to recognize excellence in journalism. Ms. Hofheinz is currently the Director of Communications for Ortho Spine Partners (OSP).

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