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General Orthopaedics


Current Concepts in Joint Replacement (CCJR) – Spring 2015


Total hip arthroplasty is among the most successful interventions in all of medicine and has recently been termed “The Operation of the Century”. Charnley originally stated that “Objectives must be reasonable. Neither surgeons nor engineers will ever make an artificial hip joint that will last 30 years and at some time in this period enable the patient to play football.” and he defined the appropriate patient as generally being over 65 years of age. Hip rating scales developed during this time were consistent with this approach and only required relief of pain and return to normal activities of daily living to achieve a perfect score. Since this time, however, hip arthroplasty has been applied to high numbers of younger, more active individuals and patient expectations have increased. One recent study showed that in spite of a good hip score, only 43% of patients had all of their expectations completely fulfilled following THA.

The current generation metal-metal hip surface replacement arthroplasty (SRA) has been suggested as an alternative to standard THA which may offer advantages to patients including retention of more native bone, less stress shielding, less thigh pain due to absence of a stem, less limb length discrepancy, and a higher activity level. A recent technology review by the AAOS determined that currently available literature was inadequate to verify any of these suggested potential benefits. The potential complications associated with SRA have been well documented recently. The indications are narrower, the implant is more expensive, the technique is more demanding and less forgiving, and the results are both highly product and surgeon specific. Unless a clinical advantage in the level of function of SRA over THA can be demonstrated, continued enthusiasm for this technique is hard to justify.

To generate data on the level of function of younger more active arthroplasty patients, a national multicenter survey was conducted by an independent university medical interviewing center with a long track record of conducting state and federal medical surveys. All patients were under 60, high demand (pre-morbid UCLA score > 6) and had received a cementless stem with an advanced bearing surface or an SRA at one of five major total joint centers throughout the country. The detailed questionnaire quantified symptoms and function related to employment, recreation, and sexual function. Patients with SRA had a higher incidence of noises emanating from the hip than other bearing surfaces although this was transient and asymptomatic. SRA patients were much more likely to have less thigh pain than THA, less likely to limp, less likely to perceive a limb length difference, more likely to run for exercise, and more likely to run longer distances. In another study of over 400 THA and SRA patients at two major academic centers, patients completed pain drawings that revealed an equivalent incidence of groin pain between THA and SRA, but an incidence of thigh pain in THA that was three times higher than in SRA in young active patients.

While some or most of the observed advantages of SRA over THA may be attributable to some degree of selection bias, the inescapable conclusion is that SRA patients are demonstrating clinical advantages that warrants continued utilization and investigation of this procedure.