Ceramic-on-ceramic (CoC) bearings in total hip arthroplasty (THA) are commonly used, but concerns exist regarding ceramic fracture. This study aims to report the risk of revision for fracture of modern CoC bearings and identify factors that might influence this risk, using data from the National Joint Registry (NJR) for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man.

We analysed data on 223 362 bearings from 111 681 primary CoC THAs and 182 linked revisions for bearing fracture recorded in the NJR. We used implant codes to identify ceramic bearing composition and generated Kaplan-Meier estimates for implant survivorship. Logistic regression analyses were performed for implant size and patient specific variables to determine any associated risks for revision.

A total of 222 852 bearings (99.8%) were CeramTec Biolox products. Revisions for fracture were linked to seven of 79 442 (0.009%) Biolox Delta heads, 38 of 31 982 (0.119%) Biolox Forte heads, 101 of 80 170 (0.126%) Biolox Delta liners and 35 of 31 258 (0.112%) Biolox Forte liners. Regression analysis of implant size revealed smaller heads had significantly higher odds of fracture (chi-squared 68.0, p < 0.001). The highest fracture risk was observed in the 28 mm Biolox Forte subgroup (0.382%). There were no fractures in the 40 mm head group for either ceramic type. Liner thickness was not predictive of fracture (p = 0.67). Body mass index (BMI) was independently associated with revision for both head fractures (odds ratio (OR) 1.09 per unit increase, p = 0.031) and liner fractures (OR 1.06 per unit increase, p = 0.006).

We report the largest independent study of CoC bearing fractures to date. The risk of revision for CoC bearing fracture is very low but previous studies have underestimated this risk. There is good evidence that the latest generation of ceramic has greatly reduced the odds of head fracture but not of liner fracture. Small head size and high patient BMI are associated with an increased risk of ceramic bearing fracture. Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2017;99-B:1012-19.

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