A femoral head ostectomy (FHO) is a surgical procedure that removes the head and neck from the femur. FHO surgery is performed to alleviate pain. It is a salvage procedure, reserved for condition where pain can not be alleviated in any other way. It is common in veterinary surgery.
Dogs, cats and small horses, donkeys and ponies have all had the procedure performed successfully. Hip dysplasia, an extremely painful congenital condition found in many dog breeds and some cats, is an example of such a condition where this procedure may be used. It is also performed in cases of trauma where the head of the femur is badly broken or severed, or in response to other diseases of the hip bone. It is sometimes the procedure of last resort when other methods have failed and or sepsis of the joint has occurred, but it can be indicated when the hip joint is severely affected or if arthritis In the joint is serious enough. It can also be indicated in small animals with pelvic fractures, particularly fractures of the acetabulum (socket of the pelvis).
The procedure exposes the head section of the femur bone (the ball of the ball and socket joint), and then the head is removed using a small saw or a bone hammer and chisel. Rarely both sides are done in one operation, most times one side is done and allowed to heal before the other side is done.
Unlike most other hip surgeries, the head of the femur is not replaced, but is allowed to heal and develop its own fibrous scar tissue so that the joint is no longer bone−to-bone. The neck of the femur is usually removed at the same time as the head. This prevents the post operative complication of bone rubbing on bone and continued pain. This has led to the procedure often also called “Femoral head and neck ostectomy”.
Animals who have had FHO surgery are required to maintain a lower weight throughout their lives to compensate for the loss of skeletal integrity, and typically have excellent functional outcomes with appropriate physical therapy.