Background: Third-body wear can adversely affect the outcome of total hip arthroplasty by causing increased polyethylene wear, osteolysis, and component loosening. We hypothesized that there would be greater generation and migration of metal debris to the bearing surfaces in hips in which cobalt-chromium cables were used to reattach the osteotomized greater trochanter when compared with hips in which stainless steel wires were used.
Methods: Between June 1981 and December 1983, 196 consecutive total hip arthroplasties were performed with use of an Iowa stem and a titanium-backed cemented acetabular component, with cobalt-chromium cable trochanteric reattachment. After nineteen to twenty years of follow-up, the patients were evaluated with regard to the depth of head penetration into the polyethylene (as a surrogate for wear), osteolysis, loosening, and the need for revision. The results were compared with those for a series of 304 total hip arthroplasties that were performed by the same surgeon from January 1984 to December 1985 with use of the same components and the same surgical technique, but with stainless steel wire trochanteric reattachment. The two groups had a comparable nineteen to twenty-year follow-up. All living patients (fifty-nine hips in the cable group and ninety-two hips in the wire group) had minimum ten-year follow-up radiographs.
Results: The polyethylene wear rate was 0.101 mm/yr for the cable group and 0.082 mm/yr for the wire group (p = 0.039). For the living patients, the rate of revision of the acetabular component because of aseptic loosening was 37.3% (twenty-two hips) for the cable group and 20.7% (nineteen hips) for the wire group (p = 0.025). The rate of acetabular osteolysis was 44% (twenty-six hips) for the cable group and 26% (twenty-four hips) for the wire group (p = 0.022). Kaplan-Meier analysis with revision of the acetabular component because of aseptic loosening as the end point demonstrated survival rates of 73.7% ± 9% and 83% ± 7% for the cable and wire groups, respectively, at twenty years (p = 0.03).
Conclusions: Because cable trochanteric attachment led to significantly greater polyethylene wear, osteolysis, acetabular loosening, and acetabular revision, presumably due to third-body metallic debris generation in this cemented total hip replacement construct, surgeons should be aware of the deleterious effects of third-body debris and avoid the use of potential debris generators in the total hip arthroplasty construct. If cable is used and fretting is recognized, especially with intra-articular migration of metallic material or nonunion of the greater trochanter, consideration should be given to cable removal.
Level of Evidence: Therapeutic Level III. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.