Greater trochanteric pain after total hip arthroplasty : incidence, clinical outcome, associated factors, tenderness evaluation with algometer and a new surgical treatment

Abstract: Greater trochanteric pain (GTP) is a regional pain syndrome characterized by lateral hip pain and tenderness. Its incidence after total hip arthroplasty (THA) is variable. Bursal inflammation, degenerative changes of the attachment of the gluteal muscles, direct operative trauma and biomechanical disturbance of the operated hip have been discussed as being related to GTP. The diagnosis is purely clinical because radiological and laboratory investigations show no definite pathology. Although most treatment modalities are conservative, some patients may develop refractory complaints leading to surgical intervention. In study I we studied the incidence of GTP in 172 consecutive patients who underwent THA during 2002 at Sundsvall Hospital. Patients with GTP (n=21, incidence 12%) were matched with controls from the same cohort. The THA outcome was assessed using the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Arthrosis (WOMAC) Index. Trochanteric tenderness was studied using an electronic pressure algometer. We found an association between the occurrence of GTP and postoperative uncorrected lengthening of the operated limb of ≥ one centimetre. The WOMAC index revealed a reduction of the clinical outcome in the GTP group. In Study II we tested the value of using an algometer in the diagnosis of GTP after THA. We measured the pressure-pain threshold (PPT) over the greater trochanter and ilio-tibial band in 18 patients and 18 matched controls. Both groups were evaluated using the visual analogue scale (VAS). We found the algometer to have a good predictive validity and reproducibility. However, there was large inter-individual variability across subjects. The PPT ratio of 0.8 (affected vs. unaffected side) can be used as a cutoff ratio to establish GTP. There was no correlation between PPT measurements and VAS. Because of a low positive predictive value and large inter-individual variability, the pressure algometer has a limited value as a screening tool. In study III we proposed a new surgical treatment for refractory GTP after THA consisting of distal lengthening of the ilio-tibial band (ITB) by Z-plasty under local anaesthesia. This method was used in 12 women between March 2004 and June 2006. The patients were followed up by phone interview 3-4 months postoperatively and by an EQ-5D questionnaire and clinical examination including evaluation with the algometer at 1-3 years postoperatively. We found that the patients‘ quality of life was markedly improved following the operation (EQ-5D = 0.26 preoperatively vs. 0.67 postoperatively; p <0.005). There were no postoperative complications. In study IV we evaluated the accuracy of a commonly used clinical method of LLD measurement (anterior superior iliac spine-medial malleolus) by comparing it to a reliable radiological method (tear drop-lesser trochanter) in 139 patients before and after THA. We found the correlation between the clinical and radiological methods to be weak preoperatively (r=0.21, ICC= 0.33) while the correlation was moderate postoperatively (r= 0.45, ICC=0.62). It is therefore recommended that the radiological method be used to measure leg length discrepancy in patients who undergo THA.