Article Abstract

Are the anatomy textbooks wrong? A clinical patho-anatomic study of foveal vessels in the round ligament of the hip

Authors: John W. Barrington, Nipun Sodhi, Muzaffar Ali, Anton Khlopas, Assem A. Sultan, James R. Kee, Kristopher A. Holmes, Omar Hariri, Jared M. Newman, Michael A. Mont


Background: The foveal vessels of the ligamentum teres are an anterior branch of the posterior division of the obturator artery, providing blood to the capitis of the femoral head. However, the basic anatomic description of foveal vasculature in the ligamentum teres of the hip is widely variable, with some studies reporting that the vessels are not patent in roughly one third of all adults. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to evaluate the status of foveal vessels in primary total hip arthroplasty (THA) patients. Specifically, we evaluated: (I) if the foveal vessels were intact; and we (II) correlated foveal vessel status with (i) patient demographics, including gender and age; as well as (ii) perioperative data, such as operative time and blood loss.
Methods: The macroscopic status of the foveal vessels in the ligamentum teres femoris was documented in 266 patients at the time of primary unilateral THA performed between August 2015 and April 2017. The vessels were considered to be intact if active bleeding was directly visible from the acetabular stump of the severed ligamentum teres femoris. Demographics including age, gender, and preoperative diagnosis were collected. The perioperative outcome variables included estimated blood loss (EBL) and operative time. Foveal vessel status defined as intact or not intact, was also correlated with patient demographics and perioperative data. A student’s t-test was used to compare the continuous variables and a chi square test was used for categorical variables.
Results: The foveal vessels were intact in 161 patients (61%) and not intact in 105 patients (39%). The mean age for patients with intact foveal vessels was found to be 64 years (range, 18 to 94 years) vs. 65 years (range, 29 to 94 years) (P>0.05) for not intact. No correlation was found between preoperative diagnosis, gender, operative time, and EBL and foveal vessel status.
Conclusions: The results of this clinical patho-anatomic study of the foveal vessels in the ligamentum teres femoris of the hip refutes the polarized claims of prior anatomy texts that document the vessels as either “absent in adults” or “always intact.” Rather, the results of this study reveal an alternate option: that foveal vessels can be present and either be intact (61%) or not intact (39%). No correlation was found between age, gender, operative time, and EBL and foveal vessel status.


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