Predicting life expectancy is not an exact science. But estimating the remaining years of life in elderly patients with a femoral neck fracture may help orthopaedists determine whether to use unipolar or bipolar hemiarthroplasty components when surgically managing that population. So suggest Farey et al. in the February 3, 2021 issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.
The relevant “magic number” for life expectancy after femoral neck fracture is 2.5 years. The authors arrived at that number by performing statistical analyses on nearly 63,000 cases of femoral neck fractures treated with either modular unipolar or bipolar hemiarthroplasty. Patients were in their early 80s on average at the time of surgery. The researchers focused on revision rates because reoperations in this vulnerable group of patients typically yield poor results.
There was no between-group difference in overall revision rate within 0 and 2.5 years after the procedure. However, unipolar hemiarthroplasty was associated with a higher overall revision rate than bipolar hemiarthroplasty beyond 2.5 years after surgery (hazard ratio [HR], 1.86).
Farey et al. also drilled down into reasons for revision and found that unipolar prostheses had a greater risk of revision for acetabular erosion, particularly in later postoperative time periods. Conversely, bipolar hemiarthroplasty was associated with a higher risk of revision for periprosthetic fracture, which the authors surmise might have arisen from the greater range of motion (and therefore activity levels) permitted by bipolar implants.
Although the authors did not perform a formal cost-benefit analysis related to this dilemma, they observed a nearly $1,000 USD price difference between the most commonly used bipolar and unipolar prostheses. Farey et al. therefore propose that the more expensive bipolar prosthesis may be justified for patients with a life expectancy beyond 2.5 years, but that the unipolar design is justified for patients with a postoperative life expectancy of ≤2.5 years.
Click here to listen to a 15-minute OrthoJOE podcast about this topic, featuring JBJS Editor-in-Chief Dr. Marc Swiontkowski and OrthoEvidence Editor-in-Chief Dr. Mo Bhandari.
Click here to see a 3-minute Video Summary of this study.
Click here to read a JBJS Clinical Summary comparing total hip arthroplasty with hemiarthroplasty for displaced femoral neck fractures.