Symptomatic leg length discrepancy after total hip arthroplasty is associated with new onset of lower back pain

Orthop Traumatol Surg Res. 2021 Feb;107(1):102761. doi: 10.1016/j.otsr.2020.102761. Epub 2020 Dec 11.


Background: Leg length discrepancy (LLD) is common after total hip arthroplasty (THA) with a plethora of clinical consequences. The associations between symptomatic (sLLD; disturbing perception of anatomical leg length discrepancy), anatomical (aLLD; side difference in leg length between the center of rotation of the hip and the center of the ankle joint) and intraarticular (iLLD; side difference between the tear drop figure and the most prominent point of the trochanter minor) LLD and lower back have not yet been reported in the literature. We performed a retrospective study to answer if postoperative (1) symptomatic LLD, (2) anatomic LLD, and (3) a change in intraarticular leg length are associated with lower back pain in patients undergoing THA. Further, we aimed to answer (4) whether symptomatic LLD is associated with the magnitude of anatomical LLD and the change in intraarticular leg length.

Hypothesis: LLD after THA is associated with lower back pain.

Materials and methods: Seventy-nine consecutive patients were retrospectively analyzed for the presence of aLLD and iLLD using EOS™ and X-rays, and were interviewed for the presence of sLLD and lower back pain using a questionnaire 5 years after primary THA.

Results: Postoperative new onset of lower back pain was reported by 9 (11%) patients. Twenty (25%) patients reported sLLD. Anatomical LLD>5mm was present in 44 (56%) (median 8.0 (IQR -3.0 to 12.0; range -22 to 22) mm) and>10mm in 17 (22%) (median 12.0 (IQR 11.0 to 16.5; range -22 to 22) mm) patients. iLLD changed>5mm in 44 (56%) (median 8.5 (IQR 7.0 to 10.0; range -8 to 18) mm) and>10mm in 10 (13%) (median 14.0 (IQR 12.5 to 14.5; range 11 to 18) mm). New onset lower back pain was associated with sLLD (p=0.002) but not with aLLD or iLLD. Patients without preoperative lower back pain had a statistically significant association between presence of sLLD and an aLLD of >10mm (p=0.01).

Conclusions: Symptomatic LLD after primary THA is associated with postoperative new onset of lower back pain irrespective of the magnitude of LLD. In patients without lower back pain prior to THA, symptomatic LLD is associated with anatomical LLD of more than 10mm.

Level of evidence: IV.

Keywords: Global Offset; Leg length discrepancy; Lower back pain; Total hip arthroplasty.

MeSH terms

  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Hip* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Leg
  • Leg Length Inequality / etiology
  • Leg Length Inequality / surgery
  • Low Back Pain* / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies