Mark Huffman Consumer Affairs
With an aging baby boom population joint replacement surgeries are becoming more common -- especially hip replacement.
While improvement in techniques has resulted in faster recovery time, doctors at Loyola University Health Center in Chicago say one technique in particular -- the anterior approach -- is producing startling results.
They point to patient Sean Toohey, who they say underwent a total hip replacement using the anterior approach. The morning after the procedure, he walked up half a flight of stairs at the hospital.
Speedy recoveryThat afternoon, he progressed from a walker to crutches to a cane. And 15 days after his surgery, they say, he returned to work, no longer hobbled by a severely arthritic hip that had been bone-on-bone.
"My brother, who has had both hips replaced, was very jealous of my outcome," Toohey said.
Toohey's surgeon, Dr. Harold Rees, used the new technique that results in less pain, faster recovery and better mobility. Rees says he now uses the anterior approach in all primary hip-replacement surgeries, which he performs at Loyola’s main campus in Maywood and at Loyola’s Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park.
Total hip replacement involves removing a diseased or damaged hip joint and replacing it with an artificial one. These hip prostheses are made up of a ball, usually composed of metal or ceramic, and a socket, which has a liner made of plastic, ceramic or metal. Everything is designed to be accepted by the body and resist years of wear.
How it's doneWhat makes the anterior approach different is how the surgeon approaches the joint. The surgery is performed through the front, or anterior of the hip, rather than the back. And rather than cutting through muscles and tendons, the surgeon goes between them to gain access to the hip joint. The anterior approach incision is only about 2 ½ inches long.
Patients like Toohey like the procedure because there's less pain during recovery because the muscles and tendons have not been cut and the patient does not sit on the incisions. There's also a lower risk of dislocating the new hip.
Rees says most hip replacements still are done using other approaches, and many hospitals do not offer the anterior approach. But the anterior approach is becoming increasingly popular, and Rees predicts that within five to 10 years it will become the predominant technique.
[from connie: I had this approach on my first hip replacement and I was back to work and driving in a week. I had two incisions which measured about 2.5 inches each.
The revision on the other hand was horrid. I had a long incision down the side of my leg about 9 inches, the muscles were cut and the heal time was forever. In the second surgery I was struck by the complexity of the surgery vs the first one. If your surgeon doesn;t use this technique and hasn't done 50 of them, get another surgeon who has. The difference in the recovery between the two approaches is profound!]