Partial or total hip replacement compared with fracture fixation for treating hip fractures located outside the hip joint

Roughly half of all hip fractures are outside the hip joint capsule (extracapsular proximal femoral fractures). Most of these will be fixed or stabilised using metal implants which are a combination of screws, rods and plates attached to the thigh bone (femur). Occasionally these may fail, particularly in unstable fractures. Replacement of part or all of the hip joint by moulded metal, or metal and plastic, devices (arthroplasty) has been proposed and used as an alternative.

The two randomised controlled trials included in this review tested arthroplasty versus internal fixation in a total of 148 mainly female and older participants. Both trials had methodological flaws that may affect the validity of their results and there was a general lack of evidence on long-term effects. One of the trials found a longer length of surgery for the arthroplasty and both trials found an increased need for blood transfusion for the arthroplasty. Pooled data from the two trials showed no statistically significant differences between the two procedures for reoperations, wound healing complications or mortality at one year. Neither trial found a significant difference in longer-term function.

Overall, the evidence from the two small trials comparing these two approaches for treating extracapsular hip fractures was too limited to make any definite conclusions as to which is better.

Authors' conclusions: 

There is insufficient evidence from randomised trials to determine whether replacement arthroplasty has any advantage over internal fixation for extracapsular hip fractures. Further larger well-designed randomised trials comparing arthroplasty versus internal fixation for the treatment of unstable fractures are required.

Read the full abstract...

Internal fixation, commonly used for extracapsular hip fractures, may fail particularly in unstable fractures. Replacement of the hip using arthroplasty, often used for intracapsular fractures, has been used as an alternative.


To compare replacement arthroplasty with internal fixation for the treatment of extracapsular hip fractures in adults.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Bone, Joint and Muscle Trauma Group Specialised Register (December 2005), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library Issue 4, 2005), MEDLINE, EMBASE, the UK National Research Register, several orthopaedic journals, conference proceedings and reference lists of articles.

Selection criteria: 

Randomised and quasi-randomised trials comparing replacement arthroplasty with an internal fixation implant for adults with an extracapsular hip fracture.

Data collection and analysis: 

Both review authors independently assessed 10 aspects of trial quality and extracted data. We requested additional information from trial investigators. Where appropriate, limited pooling of data was performed.

Main results: 

Two randomised controlled trials including a total of 148 people aged 70 years or over with unstable extracapsular hip fractures in the trochanteric region were identified and included in this review. Both had methodological limitations, including inadequate assessment of longer-term outcome. One trial compared a cemented arthroplasty with a sliding hip screw. This found no significant differences between the two methods of treatment for operating time, local wound complications, mechanical complications, reoperation, mortality or loss of independence of previously independent patients at one year. There was, however, a higher blood transfusion need in the arthroplasty group. The other trial compared a cementless arthroplasty versus a proximal femoral nail. It also found a higher blood transfusion need in the arthroplasty group, together with a greater operative blood loss, and a longer length of surgery. There were no significant differences between the two interventions for mechanical complications, local wound complications, reoperation, general complications, mortality at one year or long-term function. None of the pooled outcome data yielded statistically significant differences between the arthroplasty and internal fixation, with the exception of the significantly higher numbers of participants in the arthroplasty group requiring blood transfusion (relative risk 1.71, 95% confidence interval 1.05 to 2.77).