Is Less Invasive Hip Replacement Surgery Right For You?

Here are pros and cons to traditional and less invasive techniques for hip replacement surgery.

Your hip joint helps support your weight and makes it possible to swing your leg in a circle. It also allows you to move your leg up and down and side to side. Years of wear and tear, arthritis or injuries can damage the joint and affect its ability to function properly.

If you have trouble walking or experience frequent hip pain, your doctor may recommend total hip replacement surgery. This surgery involves removing the ball end of the femur, the long bone in your thigh, and the socket it fits into. They’re replaced with an artificial ball and socket that works just like a natural joint.

When considering a total hip replacement, traditional surgery isn’t the only option. Depending on your condition, your orthopedic surgeon may be able to perform the surgery using less invasive surgical techniques.

Traditional vs. Less Invasive Hip Replacement Surgery

During traditional hip replacement surgery, your surgeon reaches the hip joint by making a 6″ to 12″ incision on the side of your hip. The surgeon then detaches muscles, tendons and tissue or moves them aside to reach the joint so it can be replaced with an artificial joint.

Smaller incisions are used in minimally invasive surgery. The surgery can be performed using one 3″ to 6″ incision or two smaller incisions.

There are pros and cons to both types of surgery.

Benefits of minimally invasive surgery include less blood loss and a smaller scar. When the muscles and other tissues remain mostly intact, healing is typically quicker and pain isn’t as severe and doesn’t last as long after surgery.

The downside of this type of surgery is that the surgeon has a more limited view of the joint, making it harder to create a perfect fit for the replacement joint. If the new joint doesn’t fit perfectly, there’s more risk of ongoing pain. There’s also more risk of tissue being stretched or torn or nerve damage occurring.

It used to be that minimally invasive procedures would mean shorter hospital stays, but even people undergoing traditional hip replacement surgery may now only need to remain in the hospital for a day or two after surgery. This makes the difference in the length of hospital stays between the two types of procedures relatively minimal.

Who Can Have Less Invasive Hip Replacement Surgery?

Although minimally invasive surgery is an effective surgical option, it’s not the best choice for everyone. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery, traditional surgery may be the better option if you:

  • Had other hip surgeries
  • Are muscular or overweight
  • Have a hip deformity or severe arthritis
  • Have a health problem that affects wound healing
  • Are older

Your orthopedic surgeon will likely recommend which type of surgery he or she feels is best for you. If you’re in good health and eager to get back to your usual activities as soon as possible, minimally invasive hip surgery may be an excellent option, but it’s a decision that should be made after careful consultation with your surgeon.


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Date Last Reviewed: June 15, 2021

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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