Jean Kearney
Jean Kearney

New Hip Replacement Eases Recovery

Most Patients Are Able to Return to Full Range of Activity

Has hip pain placed your life on hold? Cookeville Regional now offers a minimally invasive hip surgery option for qualified candidates. CRMC orthopedic surgeon Dr. Greg Roberts is the only physician in the Upper Cumberland who performs direct anterior hip replacement, a new approach that allows patients to experience less pain and shorter recovery time than with traditional hip replacement surgery.

“It's the same surgery we were doing 20 years ago and with the same materials we’ve been using for the traditional hip replacement, but we’re using a different approach to reach the hip joint to replace it,” said Dr. Roberts.

During the traditional surgery, the surgeon makes the incision at the back of the hip, or the “posterior,” which requires cutting through the many muscles in that area to reach the hip. Because these muscles have to be cut crosswise and afterwards must heal, recovery is rather lengthy and painful.

With the new surgery, the surgeon approaches the hip from the front, or “anterior.” Since this area is less muscular, the procedure does much less damage to the muscles, and thus healing time is greatly decreased.

“For this procedure, you come in through the front and really don't cut loose any muscles,” said Dr. Roberts. “You split just one muscle, and you're down to the hip, so there’s much less damage to the muscles.”

Candidates for hip replacement include those with hip arthritis or other problems that cause severe hip pain and dysfunction. Surgery is not recommended for those with open leg wounds or infections and those with coexisting illnesses that might create complications during surgery. Nearly anyone who is a candidate for traditional hip replacement can opt for direct anterior hip replacement instead.

“For a couple of patients that were a little larger, I've had to make a second incision to try to get all of the pieces in exactly right, but virtually anybody is a reasonable candidate for direct anterior hip replacement,” said Dr. Roberts.

Because of the muscle damage caused by the traditional surgery, patients who had that surgery were encouraged to permanently avoid certain body positions to minimize the risk of hip dislocation. Those muscles are spared with the direct anterior approach, so patients who have this surgery don’t have any physical restrictions once healing is complete.

“Before, we would tell people not to bend their legs more than 90 degrees, not to cross their knees and not to roll their legs inward,” said Dr. Roberts. “With the direct anterior approach, you can put the hip into most any position you want to because they don't tend to pop out the way they did after the old surgery.”

Using the old procedure — the posterior approach — patients typically use a walker for about two to three weeks, then a cane for another week or two after that, and then are usually feeling good and are able to go back to work after six weeks.

“With this new surgery, a patient can go back to work at one to two weeks easily for a light job like a desk job,” said Dr. Roberts.