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The Benefits of Anterior Hip Replacement

November 12, 2016

The number of hip replacements has dramatically increased, according to government statistics. Over a 10-year period, the number of hip replacements performed grew from 138,700 to more than 310,000. Statistics also show that the procedure is rising among younger patients under age 45.

Though thousands of people will get this surgery every year, only 15 to 20 percent of them will have anterior hip replacement, a surgical approach that can achieve similar results as traditional surgery.

What is Anterior Hip Replacement?

During traditional hip replacement surgery, we remove a disease joint or injured hip and insert an artificial joint in its place to make a new hip. To do this, we must make an incision along the side of the hip and move the muscles connected to the top of the thigh bone to access the hip. This approach can be very taxing on some patients and can result in potential complications such as hip dislocation, swelling, bleeding or injury to the nerves or nearby blood vessels.

With the anterior approach, we make an incision close to the hip joint, which allows us to spare more tissue. We also can keep the muscle intact, which reduces the risk of dislocation. We leverage technology to perform this surgery, including an enhanced operating table, x-ray and computer navigation to see where to implant the artificial joint.

Advantages for Patients

Anterior hip replacement has several advantages for patients. There’s less damage to the muscles because we aren’t detaching it from the tendons or the bone. Patients also experience less pain after surgery because this surgery isn’t as invasive as the traditional approach. It also leads to a faster recovery. One study showed that patients who had anterior hip replacement could move without walking aids six days earlier than patients who had traditional surgery.

Older Adults Can Benefit From It

The less invasive nature of this surgery reduces the risk of complications, which is beneficial for older adults who typically need hip replacements. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 95 percent of people who have hip replacements are older than 45, with the majority over age 65. Older adults typically have a higher risk of complications after surgery because they are often dealing with multiple chronic conditions and because open surgery is very taxing on the body, especially as you age.

There are Potential Risks

With every surgery comes risks. While the anterior approach has distinct benefits for patients over traditional surgery, it has certain disadvantages.

First, patients who are obese may not be candidates for this surgery because the additional tissue can make it difficult for us to access and replace the hip joint. Hip replacement, both traditional and anterior, also comes with the risk of nerve damage. With the anterior approach, we make an incision near the nerve that supplies blood flow to the outer thigh. If this nerve is damaged during surgery, patients may experience numbness or irritation in the thigh area. However, the risk of nerve damage is minimal and happens in less than 1 percent of patients.

Anterior hip replacement is good option for many patients. Though this procedure isn’t minimally invasive, it’s less stressful on the body than traditional open surgery, with a shorter recovery period and less pain for patients. The reduced risk of hip dislocation also is beneficial for elderly people who may need this surgery.

Having a bad hip can dramatically impact a person’s quality of life. If you are experiencing ongoing hip pain, schedule an appointment to see a doctor and determine whether you need surgery. Depending on your age, medical history and the condition of your hip, we can decide which surgical approach is right for you.