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1. Practical experience has shown that subcapital fractures of the femur unite freely if reduction is stable and fixation is secure.

2. Stable reduction is obtained when the muscular and gravitational forces tending to redisplace the fracture are opposed by equal and opposite counterforces, and inherent stability is believed to depend upon the integrity of the flared cortical buttress at the postero-inferior junction of the femoral neck and head.

3. In the stable subcapital fracture a state of equilibrium is reached when the forward and upward thrust of the fixation appliance in the femoral head is opposed by the counterthrust of the closely applied and cleanly broken fragments at the postero-inferior aspect of the fracture. When the postero-inferior cortical buttress is comminuted, inherent stability is lost, lateral rotation deformity recurs and the fixation device is avulsed from the cancellous bone of the head.

4. Stability may be restored by reduction in the "valgus" position, by various forms of osteotomy, by refashioning the fracture fragments or by a postero-inferiorly positioned bone graft. Theoretically, stability may also be obtained by a double lever system of fixation in which an obliquely placed fixation device or bone graft is combined with a horizontally disposed wire, pin, nail or screw crossing it anteriorly. Multilever fixation by three or more threaded wires or pins inserted at different angles and lying in contact at their point of crossing may likewise provide stability.

5. Fixation by two crossed screws has been chosen for clinical trial in 100 displaced subcapital fractures. Imperfect positioning of the screws in seven patients has been followed by early breakdown of reduction and non-union, but satisfactory positioning has been associated with radiological union in fifty patients who have been observed for twelve months or more.

6. Ultimate breakdown in some of these fractures is certain to follow avascular necrosis, and this complication has already been seen in a few patients treated by cross screw fixation more than two years ago. It is also expected that non-union will occur in some of those patients still under observation for less than a year. Even so, these preliminary findings indicate a percentage of union far greater than that obtained by previous methods of treatment, and, although statistically inadequate, they are presented in support of the belief that it should no longer be considered impossible to achieve the same percentage of union in subcapital fractures of the femur as we are accustomed to expect in the treatment of fractures elsewhere. It is not implied, however, that this ideal will be reached merely by the adoption of some form of double or multilever fixation, and much will continue to depend upon the quality of the radiographic services, the precision of reduction and the perfection of operative technique.

7. Every advance in our understanding of what is meant by "perfection of operative technique" lends increasing support to the ultimate truth of Watson-Jones's (1941) dictum: "A perfect result may be expected from a technically perfect operation; an imperfect result is due to imperfect technique." But the simple and foolproof method of fixation which will end the search for technical perfection in the treatment of the displaced subcapital fracture has yet to be evolved, and many questions remain to be answered about this injury. Nevertheless, it is clear that the surgeon should now be prepared to attribute early mechanical failure in the treatment of femoral neck fractures to his own shortcomings, and the temptation to blame capital ischaemia for every disaster should be resisted.

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