Anterior total hip replacement surgery is a commonly performed surgical procedure used to treat arthritis of the hip. The types of arthritis that a total hip replacement can treat include arthritis from wear and tear (osteoarthritis), traumatically induced arthritis, and inflammatory arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis).
Current techniques involve replacing the ball and placing a cup into the hip’s socket. There are different joint surface materials available to choose from, with new choices being developed and updates to the existing materials occurring all the time.
Read on to learn more about anterior total hip replacement surgery and its differences from traditional techniques.
A Brief History of Anterior Total Hip Replacement
In Europe, and more recently in the U.S., a different surgical approach for hip replacement has gained interest among surgeons and patients. The principal advocate has been Dr. Joel Matta in California. He learned about the anterior technique for total hip replacement while in France. He created a custom-designed surgical table to make the procedure easier to perform and less strenuous on the patient.
The Differences Between Traditional and Anterior Techniques
The differences between the “traditional” surgical techniques and the “anterior” approach boil down to the amount of unavoidable muscle, nerve, and tendon damage the patient experiences during the surgery.
Traditional approaches to the hip invariably cut through muscle, nerves, and possibly tendons before entering the hip joint to perform the replacement. The “anterior” approach of anterior total hip replacement passes between muscles and tendons from the front of the hip.
By accessing the hip joint through an inter-nervous/inter-muscular plane, the hip surgeon can avoid injury to the same muscles and tendons that once would have been cut.
The Amazing Advantages of Anterior Arthroscopy
A couple of additional advantages to anterior total hip replacement surgery are purely due to the procedure being performed with the patient lying flat instead of on their side as with other approaches.
The primary benefit is that x-rays can be taken much easier and much earlier than the traditional technique, which requires the surgery to be completed before imaging can be accomplished. A secondary benefit is that patients usually experience less discomfort due to lying on their side for an extended period.
Another advantage of anterior total hip replacement is that approaching the hip from the front leaves the ligaments, tendons, and muscles in the back completely intact. This dramatically decreases the risk of dislocation of the hip following the replacement surgery. This risk reduction usually eliminates the need for “post-operative total hip precautions” mandated by traditional surgical approaches.
The other frequently noted advantage of anterior total hip replacement is a massive decrease in the amount of time needed for rehabilitation. Many, if not most, anterior hip replacement patients can walk with a cane for three weeks, and sometimes even sooner.
Three months after post-surgery, both the anterior and traditional approaches are essentially identical in function. The earlier return of function, the nearly zero percent rate of dislocation, and the absence of post-operative restrictions make the “anterior” surgical technique so attractive to patients and surgeons.
Two Minor Risks of Anterior Total Hip Replacement
In some respects, anterior total hip replacement surgery outcomes are the same as, or slightly worse than, traditional surgery. The hip surgery risks of infection, blood clot formation, bleeding, and other systemic problems have a similar level of risk.
The risks of fracture of the hip are slightly higher when performed anteriorly. Despite this, in many cases, anterior total hip replacements tend to be less risky in general and offer quicker recovery than traditional surgery.
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Hip Care and Treatment at IBJI
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Last updated in March 2022.
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