What is anterior approach total hip replacement?
Total hip replacement is a surgical procedure to replace the weight-bearing surfaces of the hip joint. The surgeon removes the damaged femoral head (the rounded end of the upper thighbone) and cartilage from the hip socket. The femoral head is replaced with a metal or ceramic ball that is fixed solidly to a metallic stem inserted into the upper part of the femur (thighbone). The socket is usually replaced with a plastic liner fixed into a metal shell. This new, artificial ball-and-socket assembly creates a painless, cushioning effect much like the original cartilage in your hip.
One of the most innovative hip replacement techniques is anterior approach total hip replacement. In this procedure, the surgeon reaches the hip joint from the front instead of the back or side. Muscles are split, rather than removed and reattached, which leaves those most important for hip function–the gluteus muscles that attach to the pelvis and femur–undisturbed. The anterior approach is potentially less traumatic for patients, leg length may be more accurately controlled and the risk of dislocation may be reduced.
Anterior approach total hip replacement offers all of the benefits of minimally invasive surgery, including smaller incisions, less tissue damage and bleeding, shorter hospital stays, and earlier return to work and activities. Patients can put weight on the hip immediately for a faster, more pain-free recovery.
The hip joint lies between the femur and the pelvis, surrounded by protective muscle and cushioned by rubbery cartilage. It is the largest ball-and-socket joint in the body. The "ball" is the femoral head. The "socket" is a concave depression in the lower side of the pelvis called the acetabulum.
Hip arthritis occurs when the cartilage of the hip joint gradually erodes. Without the cushioning effect of cartilage, the bones of the hip joint rub together. The hip can't move easily and becomes stiff, swollen and painful.
When is surgery recommended?
The most common reasons for hip replacement surgery are to relieve pain and replace joint cartilage damaged by osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and a variety of other conditions that lead to arthritis of the hip.
If you have hip pain that limits everyday activities and all non-surgical methods of treatment have failed – including weight loss, anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections and physical therapy – then you should consider surgery.
Many patients with advanced hip arthritis are considered good candidates for direct anterior total hip replacement. However, there are several appropriate and successful surgical approaches for hip replacement, with risks and benefits to each. It is important that every patient is carefully screened by an orthopedic surgeon to determine the most appropriate type of procedure.
What is the recovery time?
Hip replacement surgery is now much less invasive, with less tendon and muscle trauma, less bleeding, less pain and less life interruption. Patients recover more quickly and return to work and activities within weeks rather than months. Anterior approach hip replacement patients are up and walking immediately following surgery and regain range of motion, strength and flexibility after several weeks of physical therapy. Hospital stays have been reduced to one or two days and the vast majority of patients can go directly home without having to use a rehabilitation center. As with all surgical procedures, specific recovery time varies by patient and demand.