Predicting Failure of Femoral Neck Fixation
OrthoBuzz occasionally receives posts from guest bloggers. This guest post comes from Matthew Herring, MD, in response to a recent study in the Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma.
With many problems in orthopaedics, the best management options are still being debated. The treatment of femoral neck fractures is one such problem. Surgeons have several available options: cancellous screws (CS), a sliding hip screw (SHS), hemiarthroplasty, and total hip arthroplasty. The recently completed Fixation using Alternative Implants for the Treatment of Hip fractures (FAITH) randomized trial sought to offer insight on those treatment modalities.1 The study enrolled 1,079 patients with low-energy femoral neck fractures and randomized them into treatment with CS or SHS.
In a follow-up study published in the May 2018 edition of the Journal of Orthopedic Trauma, Sprague et al. analyzed FAITH data to identify predictors of revision surgery during 24 months after surgical fixation of a femoral neck fracture.2 Based on previously published studies, the authors identified 15 factors a priori that may be associated with revision surgery . Among the more than 800 patients in the FAITH cohort who had complete follow-up data, 191 (23%) underwent revision surgery and were included in the analysis. Proportional hazard modeling identified 5 factors associated with revision surgery: female sex (hazard ratio [HR], 1.79), body mass index (HR, 1.19—a 19% increased risk of revision for every 5-point increase in BMI), displaced fracture (HR, 2.16), Pauwels type III configuration (HR, 2.13 relative to type II), and poor implant positioning (HR, 2.70). In addition, prefracture dependence on assistive devices for ambulation was significantly associated with a risk of conversion to arthroplasty (p = 0.04), although a hazard ratio was not reported.
These important findings may help guide our decision making for the treatment of femoral neck fractures. First, male patients may be better candidates for surgical fixation of neck fractures than female patients, which probably relates to sex differences in bone density. Thinner patients also may be better candidates for femoral neck fixation, while arthroplasty may be the more reliable option for high-BMI patients.
Second, we have to pick the right fractures to fix. As is well described elsewhere in the literature, a more vertical fracture line (>50°) is more likely to fail with fixation. Additionally, patients with displaced fractures face a significantly higher risk of revision surgery and may be poor candidates for fixation.
Arguably, the most important modifiable risk factor for revision surgery is surgical technique. Unfortunately (and fortunately), in the FAITH study there were too few malreductions to investigate this variable in detail. However, poor implant positioning—defined as prominent screws at the lateral cortex, screw penetration, and lag screws positioned too high—was strongly associated with an increased risk of revision surgery.
It goes without saying, but well-placed implants perform better.
Matthew Herring, MD is a senior orthopaedic resident at the University of Minnesota and a member of the JBJS Social Media Advisory Board.
- Fixation using Alternative Implants for the Treatment of Hip fractures (FAITH) Investigators. Fracture fixation in the operative management of hip fractures (FAITH): an international, multicentre, randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2017;389(10078):1519-1527.
- Sprague S, Schemitsch EH, Swiontkowski M, et al. Factors Associated With Revision Surgery After Internal Fixation of Hip Fractures. J Orthop Trauma. 2018;32(5):223-230.