Femoral Head and Neck Ostectomy


Figure 1

Femoral head and neck ostectomy (FHO) is a surgical procedure that involves removing the femoral head and neck to eliminate physical contact between the bone surfaces of the femur and the acetabulum (hip socket).


FHO is a salvage surgical option for dogs with advanced degenerative hip joint disease in which surgical joint reconstruction is not recommended or is impractical. It is also indicated for the treatment of vascular degenerative diseases of the femoral head and neck (Legg-Perthes disease), chronic hip luxations, and some femoral head and neck fractures. Regardless of the underlying disease process, the primary indication for FHO is pain relief. It is not expected to restore completely normal function.

Postoperative Care

Pain medication is generally only required for the first 10 to 14 days following surgery. Give pain medication only as prescribed and do not give human drugs without first consulting with a veterinarian.

Your pet should be allowed to rest, with short leash walks only, for the first week. Then, a gradual increase in activity should be encouraged. The time until animals to start using the leg following this surgery is quite variable. Some things that may help encourage and improve limb use include:

  • Encourage walking as soon as possible
  • Passive range-of-motion exercises
  • Swimming, but not until incision is completely healed and sutures are removed (14 days after surgery)
  • Weight reduction, if needed

Please schedule an appointment for suture removal 7 to 10 days after surgery. In addition, please schedule a recheck if swelling or discharge is noted from the incision line or if the pet is not using the limb after two to three weeks.


The prognosis for femoral head and neck ostectomy is generally good when performed on small dogs or cats. The prognosis for ambulatory function is variable for large breed dogs. An FHO may not return a working or hunting animal to full function. Potential complications may include shortening of the limb with prominence of the greater trochanter, decreased range of motion, muscle atrophy, and less than full return to normal function. Rarely, sciatic nerve injury can result.

Your pet’s recovery and well-being are our primary concerns, so please do not hesitate to call and speak with a surgical technician or surgeon if there are any questions regarding your pet’s recovery.


Figure 1: Image created by Southwest Veterinary Surgical Service