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J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2002 Apr;84-A(4):609-14.

Use of helical computed tomography for the assessment of acetabular osteolysis after total hip arthroplasty.

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  • 1Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, Illinois 60611, USA.



Acetabular osteolysis is a major problem affecting long-term survival of total hip prostheses. Since lytic lesions may be asymptomatic until extensive bone loss has occurred, early detection of lytic lesions is important. The purposes of this study were to determine the efficacy and potential role of high-resolution helical (or spiral) computed tomography with metal-artifact minimization in the early detection of osteolysis of the pelvis and to use the method to determine if there was a relationship between the extent of osteolysis and the amount of polyethylene wear.


Forty patients (fifty hips) who had undergone primary cementless total hip arthroplasty between 1988 and 1994 were evaluated as part of an ongoing prospective study. These patients had a history of high-level activity that was believed to place them at increased risk for accelerated polyethylene wear. The most recent follow-up radiographs were compared with the three-month postoperative radiographs. Helical computed tomography scans with metal-artifact minimization were made, and evidence of osteolytic lesions on these scans was compared with that on the radiographs. Two-dimensional wear analysis was performed with use of digitized radiographs, and the results were compared with loss of bone volume as calculated from the computed tomography scans.


Acetabular lysis was identified on the radiographs of sixteen hips and on the computed tomography scans of twenty-six hips. Radiographs underestimated the extent of the lysis in thirteen of the sixteen hips. There was no correlation (r = 0.036) between linear wear and the measured volume of bone loss, with the numbers available. On the basis of the amount of lysis seen on the computed tomography scans, one patient underwent a revision procedure.


Helical computed tomography with metal-artifact minimization is more sensitive for identifying and quantifying osteolysis after total hip arthroplasty than is plain radiography. Since computed tomography scans show both the extent and the location of lytic lesions, they are useful to guide treatment decisions as well as to assist in planning for surgical intervention, when needed, in patients with suspected osteolysis.

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