Is An Anterior Hip Replacement Right For You?

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If you've experienced joint damage in your hip from arthritis, fractures, or osteonecrosis, an orthopedic surgeon may recommend hip replacement surgery to restore the damaged joint with artificial components. Although hip replacement is a big surgery, it can provide a significant reduction in pain and improve your quality of life because of improved mobility.

During hip replacement surgery, the joint can be accessed through a posterior approach (back of the hip), lateral approach (side of the hip), or anterior approach (front of the hip). There are pros and cons for each approach, so read on to learn more about the anterior approach and whether you'd be a good candidate for this type of surgery.  

What Are the Advantages of an Anterior Approach?

When an anterior approach is used during a hip replacement surgery, the surgeon is able to reach the joint capsule without muscle detachment. This means that because muscles are separated, instead of split, you'll have much less postoperative pain and can see increased recovery times.

One study showed an improved Harris hip score at 12 months compared to posterior approach. The Harris Hip score measures hip dysfunction in terms of pain, range of motion, and deformity. The same study also found that anterior approaches had reduced operating times and hospital stays for patients.

What Are the Downsides of an Anterior Approach?

Specialized retractors and operating tables are required for an anterior approach, so you may need to spend more time finding a surgeon for this approach. Also, every surgery carries some risk, so there is a risk for temporary or permanent femoral-cutaneous nerve damage which can cause numbness around the thigh. Thankfully, this nerve damage is incredibly rare, and your surgeon can explore your options as this risk is typically higher in patients with hip dysplasia or who've had previous hip surgeries.

Who Is a Good Candidate for the Anterior Approach?

Surgical approaches are made on a case-by-case basis depending on your medical history, the complexity of the procedure, your doctor's surgical preference, and your anatomy/body type. However, if a person is in otherwise in good health besides their hip issues — and isn't overly muscular or obese — they may be a good fit for an anterior approach.

In general, people with significant deformities around the femur are not good candidates. As previously mentioned, patients with hip dysplasia may not be good candidates since it could increase the risk of nerve damage.

Reach out to an orthopedist in your area today to learn more about anterior hip replacement procedures and other surgeries that could help your condition.