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What Are the Pros and Cons of an Anterior Approach Hip Replacement?

The anterior approach hip replacement allows for shorter rehabilitation.
An X-ray of the pelvic area, showing a replacement hip.
Benefits of an anterior approach hip replacement include a small incision, decreased time in the hospital, and a decrease in the amount of time it takes to rehabilitate.
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  • Written By: Nicole Long
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2014
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Anterior approach hip replacement offers an alternative to traditional hip replacement. The benefits of this surgery include a small incision, decreased time in the hospital, and a decrease in the amount of time it takes to rehabilitate. Some patients have difficult locating a qualified surgeon, however, and they may need more than one operation.

Surgeons use a small incision on the front of the hip to perform the anterior approach hip replacement. The hip joint is accessed between muscles and tendons. Specific instruments and a special table are used during the operation to help surgeons in leg and hip placement and to allow them to access the hip joint while limiting muscle and tendon damage.

Patients often spend less time in the hospital with this approach, and rehabilitation times are shorter. During a traditional hip replacement surgery, muscles and tendons are severed in order to access and replace the hip joint from the lateral side of the hip. This can lead to a longer stay in the hospital to recuperate from the surgery. The muscles involved in hip function are left alone during an anterior approach hip replacement, however, which means that patients can bend at normally at the hip immediately following surgery. During other types of hip replacement surgery, there are many restrictions placed on hip movement and range of motion during the recovery period.

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By using the anterior approach, there is lower risk of dislocation and a better ability to accurately control leg length. This is in large part due to the fact the patient lies on his back during the procedure instead of on his side.

Finding a surgeon to perform an anterior approach hip replacement can be difficult. The surgery is still relatively new and uncommon in some places in the world. Specific training and equipment is necessary to perform the operation, and many surgeons who are used to the traditional surgery will stick with what they know. Patients may need to travel so distance to find a surgeon who uses this approach.

The surgery has some disadvantages, including a risk of the patient requiring a revision surgery. It can also lead to infection, injury to the surrounding nerves, and fractures. As in all hip replacement surgeries, hip dislocation is also possible, although the risk is less with this operation.

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