Avascular necrosis (AVN) of the femoral head is a devastating complication following fixation of femoral neck fractures in younger adults. In this study, we investigate the prognostic utility of disuse osteopenia.
Three academic Level 1 trauma centers.
One hundred twenty patients younger than 60 years treated for a femoral neck fracture.
Main Outcome Measures:
The presence of sclerosis or osteopenia, compared to the contralateral femoral head, was measured 6 weeks from injury both subjectively and using a novel radiographic measure, the relative density ratio (RDR). The outcome measure was radiographic development of AVN.
The presence of relative sclerosis was associated with AVN and overall treatment failure. Patients with subjective relative sclerosis had a 12.6 (95% confidence interval, 2.9–61.3; P < 0.001) times higher odds of developing AVN. Multiple logistic regression showed that for every 0.10 increase in the RDR, there was a 5.2 increase in the odds (95% confidence interval, 2.1–26.9; P = 0.009) of developing AVN. Patients with an RDR of ≥1.2 have an 80% probability of AVN, whereas those with an RDR ≤0.8 have a <1% probability of developing AVN.
Disuse osteopenia detected on 6-week radiographs is a favorable prognostic sign following fixation of femoral neck fractures. Patients who have relative sclerosis of the femoral head at 6-week follow-up are at a higher risk of developing AVN.
Level of Evidence:
Diagnostic Level III. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.