A minimally invasive hip replacement is a surgical procedure in which the surgeon makes a small incision in the side of the hip or two small incisions over the groin and buttock to replace the hip socket. The surgery differs from a traditional hip replacement, which typically requires a 10 to 12-inch incision (about 25.4 to 30.5 cm). A minimally invasive hip replacement is not suitable for every hip replacement patient, but the procedure can speed recovery time and result in less scarring than the traditional method.
Once the surgeon makes a small incision in the side of the hip, he can expose the patient's joint to place the implant. The top of the thighbone is removed and the surgeon implants a metal stem and ball into the hip socket. Next, the hip socket is covered with a plastic cup to allow the patient to move the hip as normally as possible. A minimally invasive hip replacement requires the surgeon to use special tools to work around the muscles, cartilage, and bones through a smaller incision.
Patients who undergo minimally invasive hip replacement surgery often have shorter hospital stays than those who undergo the traditional procedure. Traditional hip replacement patients often stay in the hospital for four to five days, while those who have a minimally invasive procedure usually return home within two days. Some patients also report less pain and quicker healing times after a minimally invasive surgery due to the smaller incision.
The elderly, obese, or patients with very muscular thighs are not generally good candidates for a minimally invasive hip replacement. Elderly individuals often have weaker bones and less muscle tissue, making it difficult for surgeons to place the implant correctly through a smaller incision. Athletes and other patients with more muscle tissue than the average person also must generally undergo a traditional hip replacement procedure since it is too difficult for the surgeon to maneuver around the excess muscle without damaging it through a tiny incision.
Many doctors and other medical professionals do not advocate for minimally invasive hip replacement procedures for any patients. Various studies have not shown that minimally invasive procedures result in faster or better healing in most patients. Many surgeons are not as familiar with minimally invasive procedures, and the risk of complications following surgery may actually be higher since it is more difficult for surgeons to place the implants correctly. This is particularly true of the two incision method, which usually requires the aid of cameras or x-rays to help the surgeon place the new hip joint. Patients who must undergo hip replacement surgery should speak with their doctors and surgeons about the potential benefits and risks of a minimally invasive procedure.