Osteosynthesis in periprosthetic fractures: Indications, tips, and tricks


Currently, most periprosthetic femoral fractures (PPFF) are surgically managed. In treating PPFF, the first and a crucial decision facing the surgeon is: Is osteosynthesis or revision arthroplasty indicated for my patient? Although the current literature does not provide a black and white picture of which patients require stem revision and which require internal fixation only, correct assessment of the stability of the prosthetic implants greatly assists the decision-making process.


It is generally accepted that, in case of a simple fracture type with stable stem, osteosynthesis can be an effective management. However, a loose stem can easily be misdiagnosed as a stable stem, forcing the surgeon to change the treatment plans intraoperatively, since fracture fixation of a loose stem often results in a painful and unsatisfactory condition for the patient. In this article, Karl Stoffel, Chief Physician at the Bethesda Hospital, University Hospital Basel, will first focus on the process of diagnosing a loose stem in the Vancouver types of fractures and then share some general principles as well as some tips in performing osteosynthesis in PPFF. Since the Unified Classification System fracture types D, E, and F are rare, complicated, and have little supporting evidence in the literature, these will not be covered here.

Karl Stoffel

University Hospital Basel
Basel, Switzerland

The Unified Classification System (UCS) expanded upon the Vancouver Classification system and in combination with the AO/OTA Fracture and Dislocation Classification, covers all periprosthetic fractures. The UCS fracture types are:
A, Apophyseal
B, Bed of the implant
C, Clear of the implant
D, Dividing the bone between two implants
E, Each of two bones supporting one joint replacement
F, Facing and articulating with arthroplasty

Screenshot from: Velkes S, Stoffel K. Periprosthetic fractures around the hip. In: Schutz M, Perka C, ed. Osteoporotic Fracture Care—Medical and Surgical Management. Stuttgart: Thieme; 2018. 461–478.

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Stable or loose: How can we decide?

In deciding the stability of the implant, many factors must be considered. Among these are patient-specific factors, fracture patterns, and injury history. To ensure that all essential factors are considered, Karl Stoffel describes an algorithmic approach (Figure 1) that helps surgeons systematically evaluate the fractures using tools that are easily available, such as the patient history, nature of the fracture, stem design, and plain x-rays.

A history of thigh pain

In case of low-energy trauma, patients do not always recall the actual trauma event and cannot provide any trauma history except for the description of gradually increasing pain.

Should a patient describe increasing thigh pain on weight bearing or reduced mobility due to hip problems prior to the fracture, there is a high possibility that a loose stem is involved [1–3].

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  • Radiographic signs of implant instability
  • Determining the stability of cementless stems
  • Determining the stability of cemented stems
  • Testing stability intraoperatively
  • General management principle: Importance of surgical planning
  • How long should a plate be?
  • How to determine the number of screws and their placement?
  • How to ensure rotational stability and bicortical fixation?
  • Special considerations
  • Conclusion

Part 1 | Risk factors in treatment of periprosthetic fractures

Part 3 | Revision hip arthroplasty in Vancouver B2/B3 fractures—best practice in a nutshell

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Contributing experts

This series of articles was created with the support of the following specialists (in alphabetical order):

Baochao Ji

First Affiliated Hospital of Xinjiang Medical University
Urumqi, China

Cao Li

First Affiliated Hospital of Xinjiang Medical University
Urumqi, China

Karl Stoffel

University Hospital Basel
Basel, Switzerland

Luigi Zagra

IRCCS Galeazzi Orthopaedic Institute Milan
Milan, Italy

This issue was written by Maio Chen, AO Innovation Translation Center, Clinical Science, Switzerland.



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