Comparing Two Surgical Approaches For Total Hip Replacement

The decision to undergo a total hip replacement involves a number of considerations, including choosing the surgical approach that is best for you. We explain the difference between a traditional posterior surgery and the newer, less invasive anterior surgery technique used for hip replacements.

A growing number of Americans with hip pain are refusing to give up the active lives they love. When conservative therapies cease to control pain, they are electing hip replacements. This joint surgery is considered one of the most effective surgeries that medicine has to offer. We explain two hip replacement options offered at Summit Orthopedics for hip replacements.

Understanding hip replacements

A hip replacement, also known as hip arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure that replaces a diseased or damaged hip joint with an artificial joint to relieve pain and improve quality of life. At Summit, we only discuss surgical options with a patient when conservative therapies like activity modification and medication no longer provide pain relief, and when pain makes walking and other daily activities difficult.

Hip replacements were first performed in 1960. Since then, advances in surgical techniques and artificial joint technology have made hip replacement a very safe and highly effective procedure that relieves pain and increases motion. More than 300,000 total hip replacements are performed every year in the United States.

There are a number of ways to surgically handle a hip replacement operation, including the traditional posterior approach and the minimally invasive anterior approach. We explain how each of these surgeries is performed.

Traditional posterior hip replacement

Orthopedic surgical residencies teach the posterior approach, which gains access to the hip joint through a six- to eight-inch incision in the patient’s buttocks. Muscles are split and detached to reach the hip socket, remove the damaged joint, and replace it with an artificial hip joint. Afterward, the detached and split muscles are repaired and the incision is closed. This is the most common of the hip replacement options.

Anterior hip replacement

This advanced technique is the second of the hip replacement options and is designed to be less invasive than traditional posterior surgery. It is not as widely available as the posterior technique because it requires specialized training beyond a surgical residency. About one-quarter of orthopedic surgeons across the country have the necessary skills to offer this surgical technique. With the anterior approach, the patient is positioned on his or her back, and the hip joint is reached through a four-inch incision on the front of the hip just outside the groin. Instead of splitting or detaching muscles, two muscles are pushed aside to gain access to the joint and replace it, minimizing trauma to the muscles around the hip.

Patient outcomes from hip replacement options

Both surgical approaches have excellent long-term outcomes. Although we don’t know yet if the anterior approach improves long-term outcomes compared to the posterior approach, we do know that the anterior approach provides a faster and often less painful recovery.

At Summit, we want our patients to have a thorough understanding of any treatment before they make a decision to move forward. If you are considering a hip replacement, your Summit Orthopedics surgeon will explain all of your surgical options in detail, and help you identify the medical approach that is best suited for your circumstances.

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