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New 'anterior approach' to hip replacement growing in popularity

July 18, 2013

Hip replacement surgery has helped revolutionize senior living. The innovative procedure allows older adults to stay active longer than ever before, and as technology has evolved, so has the procedure. Many of the estimated 250,000 Americans who have the surgery each year may soon be electing to have it performed a bit differently. A new technique, known as the anterior approach, is becoming popular because many experts believe it could considerably reduce the recovery time, NPR reports.

Recovery time often a deterrent
Seniors considering hip replacement may be wary of having the surgery because of the lengthy recovery period. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, patients are often not fully recovered until between six and eight weeks after the procedure. However, that length of time was with the traditional approach to surgery, where doctors made the incision on the back of the thigh. Now, some doctors are making incisions in the front, and many patients claim it has cut the recovery time in half. The reason for the quicker recovery is that doctors have to cut through and stretch less muscle.

"When I did the anterior approach, it was dramatic how quickly the patients were getting up and walking and how quickly they were ready to leave the hospital," Michael Alexiades, an orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, told NPR. "They were leaving the hospital a lot quicker than my posterior approach patients."

Further research needed
Although there is some anecdotal evidence supporting the benefits of the anterior approach, there has not been much by way of clinical findings. Regardless of the length of the recovery period, patients still need to place a heavy emphasis on physical therapy and may require some form of long term care as they regain their previous levels of function.

There are also some steps seniors can take to help make the recovery process go quickly. According to AARP, one of the best things you can do is begin physical therapy before the procedure. Along with helping prepare you for what will come later, working with a therapist ahead of time will help the health professional become familiar with your mobility and physical fitness levels.