Are We Being Fooled by Fluoroscopy? Distortion May Affect Limb-Length Measurements in Direct Anterior Total Hip Arthroplasty

J Arthroplasty. 2021 May;36(5):1799-1803. doi: 10.1016/j.arth.2020.11.021. Epub 2020 Nov 21.


Background: Distortion is an intrinsic phenomenon associated with image-intensified fluoroscopy that is both poorly understood and infrequently appreciated by orthopedic surgeons. Little information exists regarding its potential influence on intraoperative parameters during orthopedic surgery, let alone during direct anterior (DA) total hip arthroplasty (THA). The purpose of this study was to quantify the amount of potential error caused by fluoroscopic distortion during DA THA.

Methods: Intra-operative fluoroscopic pelvic images from 74 DA THAs were reviewed by two independent readers. All images were obtained using the same fluoroscopic C-arm unit with a radiopaque grid attached to the image intensifier. The vertical distortion from a straight central horizontal line at the peripheries of images were measured and summed to yield the combined vertical distortion similar to how a surgeon calculates a side to side comparison of limb lengths. Simple linear regression was used to evaluate associations between total distortion and patient demographics, operating theaters, and various operative parameters.

Results: The average combined distortion was 10.0mm (range 2.0-20.0mm). There was a significant difference in the average distortion observed in different theaters (P < .001). There was no association between distortion and patient demographics or fluoroscopic time (all, P > .05).

Conclusion: Fluoroscopic distortion is unpredictable and can cause a substantial amount of error when comparing limb lengths during DA THA. This is a critical finding as this amount of inaccuracy could lead to unintended implant positioning and limb-length discrepancies if unaccounted for.

Keywords: component positioning; direct anterior total hip arthroplasty; distortion; image-intensified fluoroscopy; limb-length measurements.

MeSH terms

  • Acetabulum / surgery
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Hip* / adverse effects
  • Fluoroscopy
  • Hip Prosthesis* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Retrospective Studies