Addressing Chronic Hip Pain
A deep pain in the hip should not be ignored. This often indicates chronic hip pain, impacting 30% of Americans. Hip pain is typical after an injury or with age as a sign of osteoarthritis. The cartilage that prevents shock absorption wears away, causing pain, stiffness, and discomfort. The bone also wears away, reducing the function of the hip. For many people, a hip replacement can address the condition, reduce chronic pain, and improve the quality of life. However, the patient and surgeon must choose the best surgical technique, a posterior or anterior approach.
Replacing the hip
Intended to restore mobility and reduce pain, a hip replacement is a 2-step process. First, the surgeon removes the damaged cartilage and bone. Next, a prosthetic ball and socket joint are installed. The prosthetic consists of metal, ceramic, plastic, or a combination of materials. Surgeons perform over 300,000 hip replacements yearly. The procedure has evolved to use open or minimally invasive techniques from different angles of the body, allowing the patient more options than ever before.
Posterior hip replacement
The most common hip replacement technique used by doctors is a posterior replacement. This minimally invasive surgery (MIS) approaches the hip from the back and side, near the buttocks. The patient is placed on the side, and the approach reduces the need to cut significant muscles involved in hip movement. The surgeon can remove the damaged cartilage and bone, then install the replacement joint. This more detailed approach gives the doctor a better view of the hip.
The anterior approach
Hip surgeries can also occur at the front of the hip. With an anterior hip replacement, the surgeon makes an incision with the patient lying face up. Incisions are made from the top of the pelvis, heading to the thigh region. The surgeon will work between the muscles to access and replace the damaged joint.
Which procedure is best?
Both procedures succeed in replacing the hip and reducing pain. However, each has specific advantages for patients and surgeons. The posterior approach has improved accuracy and long-term success rate. However, cutting through muscles means the patient will have a longer recovery time and more pain. The anterior approach avoids cutting any major muscles, resulting in less pain and a faster recovery. In addition, outpatient surgery allows the patient to leave the same day and begin walking again soon after the procedure. However, the surgeon has less visibility on the hip with an anterior replacement. Some other risks of the anterior approach include infection and future hip dislocation.
The best surgical approach
A hip replacement can help the patient return to work and enjoy social activities without pain. For some, a new hip replacement means returning to exercise and sports. The surgeon can take an anterior or posterior approach to the process. Both procedures are minimally invasive and allow the patient to return to normal activities after a period of recovery involving physical therapy. However, there are additional advantages to each. The surgeon will choose the best option based on the patient’s health, weight, age, and degree of damage to the hip.