JBJS Reviews Editor’s Choice–Femoral Head Fractures

Fractures of the femoral head are uncommon. Typically associated with hip dislocations, they are found in association with high-energy trauma. They occur more commonly in men than women. Because of their relatively rare occurrence, large series with validated outcomes have not been reported. As noted by Marecek et al. in the November 2015 issue of JBJS Reviews, the goals of treatment are to achieve early and safe reduction and fixation and, in doing so, avoid complications, including osteonecrosis and heterotopic ossification.

To accomplish these goals, it is important to identify any associated life-threatening injuries and to achieve prompt reduction. A distinction is made between infrafoveal and suprafoveal fractures and the presence of associated femoral neck or acetabular fractures. Operative treatment is usually accomplished through the direct anterior or surgical hip dislocation approach, depending on the associated injury patterns. The use of mini-fragment lag screw fixation is generally preferred.

The initial treatment of femoral head fractures follows advanced trauma life support (ATLS) protocols. If hip dislocation is present, urgent reduction is performed in conjunction with skeletal relaxation to decrease the risk of osteonecrosis of the hip. Nonoperative treatment is reserved for patients with infrafoveal fractures with a concentric hip joint and no intra-articular debris and patients in whom operative intervention carries a morbid risk of complications. The timing of intervention for femoral head fractures remains controversial, and at least one randomized controlled trial demonstrated significantly worse outcomes for patients who had closed manipulative reduction and delayed open reduction and internal fixation compared with patients who received immediate operative reduction and fixation.

In summary, femoral head fractures are uncommon but severe. After prompt reduction of hip dislocations, a thorough evaluation is required to detect all associated injuries and to formulate an appropriate operative plan. Treatment should be directed toward achieving a stable, concentrically reduced hip with anatomic reduction of the fracture or excision of comminution and removal of articular debris. Arthroplasty should be reserved for patients who are older, those who have degenerative changes of the hip, and those who have complex injuries, the treatment of which would be more detrimental or risky than immediate arthroplasty.

Thomas A. Einhorn, MD

Editor, JBJS Reviews

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