Hip fusion is an uncommon procedure. Hip fusion takedown, therefore, is equally an uncommon procedure. What is of considerable interest is that the results, which I achieved in 20 cases in a paper published in 1987 are considerably superior to the results, which I am achieving today. This suggests that no simple case is now fused. It also equally suggests that there is little sense in looking at literature more than 10 or 15 years old on fusion takedowns as the two conditions are likely completely different.
Most patients do not like a hip fusion. There are long-term problems with low back pain, ipsilateral global instability and contralateral patellofemoral osteoarthritis. A stiff hip produces a poor quality of life, especially in a tall person. The main problem in doing a hip fusion takedown is the condition of the abductors muscles. If fused before growth was complete, there may be pelvic hypoplasia. If the pelvis is small, the glutei will also be small. Sometimes, the glutei may have undergone fatty degeneration. This can be assessed by means of an MRI. If the abductors were damaged during fusion, a limp may persist. Other problems are that leg lengthening is difficult to achieve any longstanding hip fusion. Lengthening of 1–2 cm is usually about all that can safely be achieved. If the hip was fused in childhood, there is likely to be femoral hypoplasia. There is also likely absence of proximal cancellous bone and the proximal femur is a thin brittle cortical tube. The greater trochanter should not be detached as it is difficult to obtain union under such circumstances. The approach, which I prefer for a fusion takedown is an anterior Smith Peterson. The glutei are slid off the pelvis sidewall and then the upper part of the fusion can be exposed, blunt Hohmans can then be passed around the femoral neck prior to transection. Obviously, if any AO cobra plate has been used for a fusion, a trochanteric osteotomy may be required to preserve any glutei left. Old hardware can be removed either concurrently or as an interval procedure. In 1986, I published the results of 20 cases with a five to 40-year fusion time (mean 19). I used a variety of implants. Flexion was achieved to 90 degrees at 12 months in about 88% of people. Seventy-five percent ceased to limp by year one, although the elderly limp when tired. One patient was dissatisfied with the procedure. One was revised for pain.
I have reviewed the cases done in the last 20 years. These were 28 cases, two bilateral. Seven were spontaneous fusions. Twenty-one were formal hip fusions. One was an AO fusion with a cobra plate. There were various intra-operative complications including two calcar cracks, which were wired, three femoral shaft fractures, which necessitated the use of long stems. There was one drop foot, which recovered. At review, a limp was absent in 20%, mild in 12% and severe, i.e. Trendelenburg positive in 68%. Harris hip scores were excellent in 28%, good in 32%, fair in 16% and poor in 24%. Four patients only, however, continued to use canes. The eventual range of movement was good. In 80%, more than 90 degrees of flexion was obtained, but it took up to two years to obtain maximum flexion. In 12%, the range of motion was poor at being 50 degrees to 85 degrees. The range of motion was poor, i.e. less than 45 degrees in one bilateral case of athrogryposis. This was a stiff arthrogrypotic. Further surgery is required in several cases. An ipsilateral total knee replacement and one a supracondylar femoral osteotomy. One cup loosened and was revised at seven years and one liner was exchanged at ten years.