Traditional hip replacement surgery involves an incision of 10-12 inches over the back side of the hip and buttock. This is called the posterior approach to hip replacement. The underlying muscles are split or cut to enable the surgeon to get to the hip joint and resurface or replace it. The comparative illustration at right shows the incision for a traditional hip replacement in red.
Anterior approach hip replacement surgery is a new development in the U.S. It is a tissue-sparing, minimally invasive technique, where the incision is made on the front of the hip, rather than the back. This allows a much shorter incision that gives access to the hip joint without detaching muscles from the pelvis or femur. The comparative illustration at right shows the incision for an anterior hip replacement in blue.
A special operating table is used, enabling accurate positioning and retention of pelvis and hips during the surgery, as well as allowing x-rays during the procedure to ensure precise placement of the new hip components. Specialized instruments are used to work through the mini-incision in the natural interval between the muscles. The arthritic surfaces are removed and replaced with new surfaces without disturbing the most important muscles for hip function, the gluteal muscles that attach to the pelvis and femur. Therefore those muscles don’t require a post-surgical healing process, and the patient’s recovery time is significantly reduced.
Patients are allowed to immediately bear weight fully on their replaced hip on the day of surgery. Although all patients are different with regard to their pre-operative health status it is not unusual to see patients walking one to two miles a day by their three week post-op check.