Hip replacement candidates now have a new alternative that offers a quicker recovery time and could get patients back on their feet in as little as two weeks, said Dr. Joseph Hecht, of Orthopedic Specialists of Northwest Indiana.
More than half of hip replacement surgeries are done with the traditional posterior approach, which means the incision is placed on the back side of the patient hip. Another 20 percent are done from the side.
Dr. Hecht recommends the newer, direct anterior hip replacement, which creates a smaller incision on the front of the patient -- about 3-4 inches -- and potentially has fewer side-effects.
The surgery is the only technique that goes between, not through, important nerves and muscles, he said. It also relies on x-rays during the procedure to help confirm proper positioning of the replacement components and make sure the patient’s leg lengths are equal.
It also offers other benefits including a slightly lower risk of post-operative blood clots. It also allows the patients to lie on their back during surgery, which makes it easier for the anesthesiologist and for the surgeon.
And since major “walking muscles” aren’t cut during the procedure, some patients can walk without a limp or a cane in as little as two weeks. With the traditional posterior approach, patients are generally still using a walker or a cane at the two-week mark.
“The direct anterior hip replacement procedure is becoming more popular, but there are only a few places in the area that offer it,” he said. “Most noticeably, a higher percentage of patients are walking more comfortably, and with a smoother gait at the two-week mark.”
The in-patient procedure can be done at several hospitals in the area and requires a two or three day hospital stay. It typically shortens the hospital stay by about a day, Dr. Hecht said.
The direct anterior hip replacement procedure is best for slim or slightly heavy patients, he said, because very heavy patients are more at risk for post-operative wound problems.
“There are some situations where I prefer not to do that technique,” he said. “We evaluate each patient individually and always select the approach that is best for that individual patient.”