Although total hip replacement surgery eases pain and gets you moving again when you have severe hip arthritis, it's a major medical intervention. This procedure is invasive and requires time and work to rehabilitate the joint.
A surgical option that involves a smaller incision and a shorter recovery time seems like it would be a good idea…but is it?
Pros and cons of minimally invasive hip surgery
Minimally invasive hip replacement surgery involves replacing the damaged hip joint with prosthetic parts, just as in traditional hip replacements. But it's minimally invasive because surgeons use smaller incisions and do less damage to surrounding muscle and soft tissues.
This approach is fairly new, so the clinical trials about its effectiveness—and possible advantages over traditional hip replacement—are limited and have yielded mixed results so far.
Consider this list of pros and cons for minimally invasive hip replacement surgery:
- A smaller incision or pair of incisions results in a smaller post-surgery scar.
- The smaller incision also may mean less blood loss or need for transfusions during surgery.
- Less cutting of muscle and tissue during the procedure means shorter and easier rehabilitation.
- The procedure may require a hospital stay of only 1 or 2 days instead of the 3 to 5 needed for traditional surgery.
- Some studies contend that minimally invasive hip surgery doesn't actually reduce blood loss during surgery.
- It's a technically demanding surgery that requires the surgeon to have a lot of experience with the procedure, so a surgeon with sufficient experience may be difficult to find.
- If the surgeon doesn't fit the prosthetic components of the joint together well—which is more difficult to do during minimally invasive hip surgery—there is a risk for future complications. It may even be necessary to redo the surgery.
- The surgery takes longer, which raises risks because of the extended time under anesthesia.
This chart compares all the factors of traditional versus minimally invasive surgery that evidence has revealed so far.
Questions to ask your surgeon
The best option for each individual's hip replacement surgery should be determined based on the unique conditions of each patient and the experience of each surgeon.
If you're interested in finding out if minimally invasive hip replacement surgery is right for you, here are some questions to ask your surgeon:
- How often do you perform this surgery, and how long have you been performing it?
- What are your success and complication rates for this surgery?
- What are the possible short-term and long-term outcomes I could have for this surgery?