The ‘critical trochanter angle’ : a predictor for stem alignment in total hip arthroplasty

Stem malalignment can affect offset reconstruction and may result in gluteal muscle insufficiency. In this retrospective study, a novel geometric angle named ‘critical trochanter angle’ (CTA) is described and investigated towards the risk of malposition of a collarless straight tapered hydroxyapatite-coated stem in primary total hip arthroplasty (THA).

Material and methods:
A total of 100 cementless THA were implanted in patients with unilateral coxarthrosis via the direct anterior (n = 50) or direct lateral Hardinge approach (n = 50) in a two surgeon setting using the Corail® or Trendhip® stem (DePuy Synthes or Aesculap). Stem alignment was analysed in postoperative AP pelvic radiographs and correlated to the CTA: the angle crest was defined by the intersection of the femoral shaft and neck axis and the angle was measured between the shaft axis and a leg intersecting the vertex between the lateral and superoposterior facet of the trochanter.

Forty-seven stems were implanted in varus (≥ + 1°), 42 in neutral (< + 1°/> − 1°) and 11 in valgus position (≤ − 1°). The mean critical trochanter angle was 25.0° (SD ± 7.5°), and there was a negative and statistically significant correlation to stem alignment (r = − 0.52; p ≤ 0.001) independent from the surgical approach. For stem malposition of 2° and above (n = 23), mean CTA was 17.2° for varus (n = 20) and 31.6° for valgus (n = 3). A CTA lesser or equal to 22.75° had a sensitivity of 90% and specificity of 80% for varus stem position of 2° or greater. Specificity raised to 100% with a cutoff CTA of 12.5° or lesser.

Varus stem alignment in THA is associated with coxa vara deformity and a radiological low CTA. In preoperative planning, the critical trochanter angle can help to evaluate the risk for intraoperative stem malpositioning. If navigation or robotic assistance is not available when using this stem design, we recommend an intraoperative x-ray to verify correct implant positioning in patients with a CTA under 20° or above 30°.


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