The surgical approach to total hip replacement (THR) may impact the surgical outcome. Total hip replacement is a common surgery, with more than 300,000 procedures performed in the United States each year. Traditionally, most total hip replacements have been done using the posterior approach, in which the surgeon accesses the hip joint through the buttocks or side. More recently, surgeons are using the anterior approach, which involves entering the hip joint through the front thigh region.
According to researchers, both direct anterior and posterior surgical approaches for THR yield excellent results as reported by patients. The surgical approach is not the singular variable that makes a difference in a 6-month post-operative outcome. Patients considering total hip replacement should ask the orthopedic surgeon about which approach is best for them. A decision will be made based on the risks and benefits of the surgical approach for the individual patient.
In a recent clinical study, involving 275 patients who had a total hip replacement between 2012 and 2014, the average age of patients was 65 years. Using certain outcomes for evaluation, researchers compared the two groups regarding pre- and post-surgical pain, function in recreation, function in daily living, and hip-related quality of life. According to results, there were no significant differences between the two groups.
In another study, researchers compared radiographic, clinical, and surgical outcomes among patients undergoing total hip arthroplasty performed via the posterior versus anterior approach. After evaluating 17 studies and 2,300 patients, researchers found that there was a significant difference in favor of the anterior approach regarding dislocations and length of stay after surgery.
Researchers have found that the extent of muscle damage is different for each surgical approach as well. In a randomized clinical trial, researchers compared the two procedures. The main end point was the ability to walk unlimited distances and climb stairs at 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, and one year post-operative. At the 6-week follow-up, the direct anterior group had more patients walking limitlessly and climbing stairs compared to the direct posterior group. The differences were not as significant later on in the recovery process. However, the direct anterior approach was found to provide earlier restoration of function after total hip arthroplasty.
Another group of researchers evaluated 88 procedures (41 anterior and 47 posterior approaches for THA). The length of stay after surgery was shorter for the anterior group than the posterior group. The duration of surgery was longer, however, for the anterior approach group. Both groups performed similarly on questionnaires regarding pain and clinical outcome measures at the 6-month follow-up.
Before your surgery, the orthopedic surgeon will complete an extensive evaluation including a past medical history, physical examination, hip x-rays, and certain blood and diagnostic tests to establish fitness for surgery. Careful consideration will be given to how much pain the patient has and how often pain limits bending, walking, and resting. In addition, the surgeon will evaluate what measures have helped alleviate hip symptoms in the past.
How the Procedures Vary
During both anterior and posterior THR procedures, the head of the femur must be removed and replaced with a metal stem, as well as a ceramic or metal ball. The damaged cartilage and bone are removed from the hip socket and replaced with a metal prosthesis. Finally, a plastic spacer is placed between the new socket and ball to allow for a smooth gliding motion.
With the posterior approach, the hospital stay is usually 2-8 days, depending on the patient’s health condition, the severity of hip damage, and the surgeon’s recommendations. The incision will be 10-12 inches long, running from the outer buttock. Some muscles around the hip joint are cut and repaired, and recovery is 2-4 months. People who have this procedure have to follow specific precautions for 6-12 weeks, which include no internal rotation (turning leg inward), no crossing the leg, and no bending past 90 degrees.
With the anterior approach, the hospital stay is shorter (2-4 days), and the surgical incision is along the front aspect of the hip. The incision is shorter with this procedure (4-5 inches), and recover time is only 2-8 weeks. There are no specific precautions with the anterior approach, which makes it a more desirable procedure. With both procedures, patients must use an assistive device (walker or cane) while moving about, and physical therapy is required to improve strength, range of motion, and mobility.
Orthopedic and Sports Performance Institute in Gilbert AZ offers top hip replacement with surgeons performing both anterior and posterior procedures. Most insurance is accepted, with some of the procedures offered as an outpatient or a one day stay. Call us now!
Barrett WP, Turner S, Leopold J (2013). Prospective randomized study of direct anterior vs posterolateral approach for total hip arthroplasty. J Arthroplasty, 28:1634–8.
Higgins BT, Barlow DR, Heagerty NE, & Lin TJ (2015). Anterior vs. posterior approach for total hip arthroplasty, a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Arthroplasty, 30(3), 419-434.
Martin CT, Pugely A, Gao Y, et al. (2013). A comparison of hospital length of stay and short-term morbidity between the anterior and the posterior approaches to total hip arthroplasty. J Arthroplasty, 28:849–54.