Background: The alumina ceramic femoral head was introduced for total hip arthroplasty approximately thirty years ago. One of its main drawbacks was the risk of implant fracture. The aim of this study was to examine the results of revision total hip replacement performed specifically to treat a fracture of a ceramic femoral head and to identify technical factors that affected the outcomes.
Methods: One hundred and five surgical revisions to treat a fracture of a ceramic femoral head, performed at thirty-five institutions, were studied. The patients were examined clinically by the operating surgeon at the time of the last follow-up. The surgeon provided the latest follow-up radiographs, which were compared with the immediate postoperative radiographs. The success of the revisions was assessed with Kaplan-Meier survivorship analysis, with the need for repeat revision as the end point. We evaluated the complication rate and radiographic changes indicative of implant loosening. The average duration of follow-up between the index revision and the last clinical and radiographic review was 3.5 years (range, six months to twenty years).
Results: Following the revisions, radiographic evidence of cup loosening was seen in twenty-two hips (21%) and radiographic evidence of femoral loosening was seen in twenty-two (21%). One or several repeat revisions were necessary in thirty-three patients (31%) because of infection (four patients), implant loosening (twenty), osteolysis (eight), or fracture of the revision femoral head component (one). The survival rate at five years was 63% (95% confidence interval, 51% to 75%). The survival rate was significantly worse when the cup had not been changed, when the new femoral head was made of stainless steel, when a total synovectomy had not been done, and when the patient was less than fifty years old.
Conclusions: Fracture of a ceramic femoral head component is a rare but potentially serious event. A suitable surgical approach, including total synovectomy, cup exchange, and insertion of a cobalt-chromium or new ceramic femoral ball minimizes the chance of early loosening of the implants and the need for one or more repeat revisions.
Level of Evidence: Therapeutic study, Level IV (case series [no, or historical, control group]). See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.