Even though an estimated one million hip- and knee-replacement surgeries are performed in the U.S. every year, many qualifying patients have preferred to try and live with debilitating pain and discomfort rather than undergo those procedures. Part of the reason for that is understandable: an aversion to what is commonly believed to be a tedious and arduous recovery period.
But surgical advances and robotics have revolutionized those surgeries over the past decade or so, improving the patient’s experience by making his or her recovery process much less cumbersome and strenuous.
One way those advances have helped cut down on recovery time is a technique called the anterior approach hip replacement. While traditionally hip-replacement surgery involves going through the back (posterior) of the hip and involves cutting through muscles and tendons, the anterior approach involves going through the front of the hip and making a much smaller incision, allowing the surgeon to go between the muscles and tendons.
The anterior approach – which dates back to 1947, when Robert Judet performed it at a hospital near Paris – not only causes considerably less pain, it also eliminates long hospital stays and recovery periods – including fewer post-operative restrictions on the patient’s activities.
In fact, muscle damage is so minimal – only rarely do I need to disrupt the muscle attachments to the bone – that pain and bleeding are minimized. The smaller incision also means that most patients go home the same day and require no physical therapy.
Other benefits of the anterior approach hip replacement include:
Precise Placement. Through X-ray imaging and computer navigation, the surgeon can determine exactly where to place the implants to recreate the length of the leg and restore the correct muscle tension, thereby decreasing the risk of dislocation. With the imaging and information being received in “real time” during the operation, the surgeon can proceed with better control and precision.
Better Biomechanics. The minimally invasive, highly precise nature of the anterior approach helps the surgeon tailor each surgery to an individual’s anatomy. Getting to know my patients well, discussing their options, and understanding exactly what they want to achieve allows us to make the best decisions together. A competitive athlete, weekend warrior, or someone who just wants to spend pain-free time with their kids or grandkids all have different needs and ways of moving.
The best part of my job as a surgeon is to see my patients recover and get back to the things they love as quickly and efficiently as possible. Anterior approach hip replacement offers exactly that.