The proximal modular neck in THA: a bridge too far: affirms.

Research paper by Michael J MJ Dunbar

Indexed on: 16 Sep '10Published on: 16 Sep '10Published in: Orthopedics


Modular necks are a relatively new innovation in total hip arthroplasty (THA), with several companies now offering modular neck options. The proposed advantages of reduced impingement, reduced dislocation rate, and better reconstitution of leg length and offset are compelling. However, few reports in the literature address the outcomes of these devices, and those that are published at best demonstrate equivalence to conventional THA. There are numerous disadvantages to this new technology. Neck dissociation has been reported with a specific design of the modular taper. Numerous case reports exist of the fracture of titanium modular femoral necks, with 1 large series of 5000 cases reporting a fracture rate of 1.4%. Fractures occurred more frequently in heavy men (>100 kg), with the preponderance of fractures occurring around the 2-year mark. Retrieval analysis demonstrates failure of the titanium components at the Morse taper junction of the neck and femoral stem at the point of maximal tension, likely related to notch sensitivity. The additional interface of modular necks in the effective joint space has the potential to generate significant metal ions through a pitting corrosion process. Evidence exists of highly elevated serum cobalt and chromium ions in a modular junction used in large-head THA supporting these concerns. The use of particular neck geometries, such as long retroverted necks, may adversely affect the local biomechanical forces on the femoral component. The proposed mechanism is an increased lever arm leading to increased torque on stair climbing or rising from a chair. Finally, modular necks add significant costs to the implant and the health care system. On balance, based on the literature, the proximal modular neck in THA is a bridge too far.