People suffering from arthritis of the hip must alter their daily activities to deal with pain. Many people find relief in medicines, exercises, and weight-management programs. However, many patients have intense pain that keeps them from enjoying life. Doctors may discuss hip replacement surgery with patients who do not get relief from other treatments. Surgeons have been performing this procedure for decades, and for many people, it provides relief.
Traditional hip replacement surgery is performed by making a 12-18 inch incision in the patient’s thighbone. The incision allows the doctor to remove the diseased hip joint and replace it with an implant. Hip replacement is a major surgery requiring adequate time for the tissue to adjust to the new implant. The large incision, which disrupts the muscles and tissues of the leg, needs time to heal as well.
Reducing the rehabilitation period after surgery is considered an important factor in helping patients through hip replacement. Doctors hope to speed up the recovery process by operating with smaller incisions. The smaller incisions reduce the amount of disruption to the leg tissue and muscles. This small-incision technique is an adapted form of traditional hip replacement surgery. Doctors refer to this as “minimally invasive” or “mini-incision” hip surgery (MIH). In addition to the possibility of faster recovery, there may be other potential benefits, such as less bleeding, less post-operative pain and smaller scars for improved cosmetics.
Doctors use several techniques to achieve a smaller incision with minimally invasive hip surgery. Some techniques include a single incision as shown above. A two-incision approach, using two 2-inch incisions, is also being used but is less widespread.
MIH surgery uses the same implants as traditional hip replacement surgery. However, at this point some minimally invasive approaches may limit the implant options available to the surgeon. Talk to your doctor about minimally invasive surgeries that allow for the use of various implants allowing doctors to choose the most appropriate implant for their patient.
Only an orthopedic surgeon can determine whether a person is a candidate for the minimally invasive hip replacement procedure. As with any surgery, there are risks. Recovery takes time and hard work. The life of a new joint depends on weight, activity level, age and other factors. Each patient responds differently. The most common adverse events include loosening, deformation or wear of one or more of the components, osteolysis, infection, fracture of the components or bone, change in position of the components, dislocation and tissue reaction. Also, a mini-incision may need to be converted into a traditional incision during surgery. While studies are being conducted, many surgeons may still prefer to perform traditional hip replacement surgery.