During traditional total hip replacement surgery the surgeon makes a 10 to 12 inch incision along the side of the hip. The muscles are cut or detached from the hips’ bones, and the ball and socket of the hip are dislocated to give the surgeon full access to the femur and pelvis.

Minimally invasive total hip replacement techniques usually require incisions of only 3 to 6 inches. A smaller incision reduces the surgeon’s access to the surgical area, so this type of surgery requires special tools to access and cut the femur and hip socket of the pelvis.

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Where a surgeon makes the surgical incision and gains access to the hip joint is referred to as the surgical approach. There are many different types of surgical approaches that are referred to as minimally invasive hip replacement surgery:

  • Posterior (rear) approach, using an incision toward the back of the hip
  • Lateral (side) approach, using an incision at the side of the hip
  • Posterolateral approach, using an incision at the side of the hip, slightly to the back of the body
  • Anterior (front) approach, using an incision at the front of the hip
  • Anterolateral, using an incision at the side of the hip, slightly to the front of the body
  • Two-incision approach, using small incisions at both the groin and side of the hip

Potential patients should note that different approaches may have different potential advantages and risks, and over time experts may learn that certain minimal approaches offer better outcomes than others. Currently, what type of surgical approach is recommended will depend on the patient’s anatomy as well as the surgeon’s experience and preference.

The same types of prostheses are used in both minimally invasive and traditional total hip replacement surgeries, so the actual replacement hip a patient receives is not dependent on the type of procedure used.

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