Published 2/1/2012

Orthopaedic Research Gets Boost in Defense Bill

Jamie A. Gregorian, Esq.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of Fiscal Year 2012, signed into law on Dec. 23, 2011, included $30 million in funding for the Department of Defense (DOD) Peer Reviewed Orthopaedic Research Program (PRORP). PRORP had previously been funded at a $24 million level, so this represented a 25 percent increase in new money.

Established in 2009, PRORP is an outgrowth of the Orthopaedic Extremity Trauma Research Program (OETRP). It is designed to improve care for military personnel who sustain extremity trauma by funding innovative, high-impact, clinically relevant research to advance treatment and rapid rehabilitation from musculoskeletal injuries sustained during combat or combat-related activities.

PRORP is the principal research vehicle for developing better treatments and outcomes for wounded military personnel with extremity injuries. Extremity injuries make up the largest source of long-term morbidity for injured military personnel and account for more than two thirds of inpatient hospital costs and disability payments.

The research conducted thus far under PRORP and OETRP has yielded promising new discoveries in the treatment of individuals wounded in combat.

One such discovery was a potentially highly effective treatment for heterotopic ossification (HO), a painful and often debilitating abnormal buildup of bone tissue that appears in a rare congenital form, but also as a result of high-energy trauma. HO affects almost 65 percent of wounded military personnel, underscoring the impact of this research. Other discoveries are leading to potential reductions in wound infection and to improvements in pain management.

The American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) and several specialty societies worked with Congressional champions to emphasize the importance of funding this research. Helping to lead the charge in the U.S. House of Representatives were Reps. Mark Critz (D-Pa.), Andy Harris (R-Md.), Tim Holden (D-Pa.), and Jon Runyan (R-N.J.). Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) led the effort in the Senate. Several other Democrats and Republicans signed letters of support for the program.

“I am truly grateful, especially during this highly partisan climate, that our partners in Congress were able to put politics aside and work together to improve trauma care for our wounded warriors,” said Orthopaedic Trauma Association President Andrew N. Pollak, MD. “When we ask our men and women in uniform to stand in harm’s way, we owe them the very best possible care if they are injured, and the funding for PRORP will help us provide that.”

Jamie A. Gregorian, Esq. is senior manager, specialty society affairs and research advocacy in the AAOS office of government relations.