You’re probably familiar with the basic concept of total hip replacement surgery – namely that it replaces a diseased or damaged hip joint with an artificial one. Hip replacement surgery also relieves pain and helps improve movement. But did you know that the procedure can be performed from behind the hip, to the side of the hip, or from the front of the hip? The third option is what is known as the anterior approach, and this surgery is also referred to as mini, modified, minimally invasive, or muscle-sparing.
Since it is performed in the front of the hip, an anterior hip replacement approach involves a smaller surgical incision. The incision starts at the top of the pelvic bone and extends down toward the top of the thigh. Whereas the traditional hip replacement approach requires your surgeon to cut muscles and other soft tissue at the back of the hip to access the hip joint, the anterior approach enables your surgeon to work between your muscles – which are supplied with different nerves — with either minimal or no muscle cutting. It’s a more natural means of approach that provides easier access to the hip joint.
In addition, the anterior approach offers other advantages that include:
- Less muscle trauma
- Less pain
- A shorter hospital stay
- A faster and easier recovery
- A reduced risk of hip dislocations
Total hip replacement using the anterior approach is a relatively safe procedure. But, like any surgery, it does have some risks that need to be mentioned. The possibility of infection, blood clots, injury to nerves, subsequent hip joint dislocation, and a change in the length of your leg are all possible, however quite unlikely. Also, the surgery may not eliminate your pain or improve your mobility. However, your healthcare provider will discuss these risks and concerns with you prior to your surgery.
Before you undergo hip replacement surgery, it’s important to furnish your doctor with your complete medical history and let him or her know whether you have any drug allergies. Also discuss what medications you are taking, including over-the-counter medicines and supplements. You may need to stop taking these before your surgery.
Your doctor may also order tests before your surgery, such as X-ray and/or MRI of your hip and surrounding tissue; they may also want you to have an electrocardiogram, to make sure your heart rhythm is normal. These tests will enable your surgeon to safely and accurately perform a successful procedure with minimal incision, less pain, and a faster recovery.
Total hip replacement surgery with or without the anterior approach is not an option for all patients afflicted with arthritis or other joint-damaging condition. There may be other surgical alternatives, such as total hip resurfacing. Talk with your orthopedic surgeon to see which treatment works best for you.
You shouldn’t put off contacting an orthopedic surgeon if you are afraid of surgery, either. Rest assured that they will always try to go the least invasive route first, whether it be physical therapy or injectable medicine. If you are suffering from any type of joint pain, you may benefit from any number of approaches and physical therapies. Call the specialists at Movement Orthopedics at (586) 436-3785 for more information about our comprehensive treatments and services, or to schedule an appointment for a consultation.