Bone-Preserving Stems in THA – Do They Work?

Total hip arthroplasty (THA) is a tried-and-true treatment for debilitating hip osteoarthritis. But as the number of patients undergoing THA continues to rise, so does the incidence of periprosthetic femoral fractures and the need for revision surgery. The increasing burden of periprosthetic fractures has led to the development of shorter-stemmed femoral components that theoretically preserve bone, decrease fracture risk, and make revision surgery easier if it is required. In the January 6, 2021 issue of The Journal, Slullitel et al. report on a randomized controlled trial that determined whether bone loss differed between patients who received a conventional stem and those who received a short, bone-preserving stem over 2 years following THA.

Forty-six patients received the short, proximally porous-coated stem (Depuy Synthes Tri-Lock bone-preservation stem), and 40 received the conventional stem (Depuy Synthes collarless Corail stem). The primary outcome–bone mineral density (BMD)–was analyzed at 12, 26, 52, and 104 weeks after surgery with dual x-ray absorptiometry region-free analysis (DXA-RFA), which revealed pixel-level resolution of BMD at the bone-implant interface.

Immediately after surgery, researchers found a similar amount of bone loss in both groups in the calcar region and the cancellous portion of the distal greater trochanter. But at all other subsequent time points, bone loss was significantly greater in patients with the bone-preserving stem (analysis of variance [ANOVA] p < 0.0001). In addition, over the full study period the small areas of bone gain that the researchers found were statistically greater in the conventional-stem group than in the Tri-Lock group. Notably, patient-reported outcomes and adverse events did not differ between the 2 groups at the 2-year follow-up.

These early results cast a shadow of doubt over whether a stem that is marketed to preserve bone actually accomplishes that objective. However, 2 years is a very short follow-up when looking at the lifetime of a hip arthroplasty, and the clinical implications of these findings will become clearer with longer-duration analysis.

Click here to read a JBJS Clinical Summary titled “Short-Stem Femoral Components in THA” by Tad Mabry, MD.

Matthew R. Schmitz, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media

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