Hip replacement surgery was first performed in 1960. Since then, more than 2.5 million people have undergone total hip replacement – also known as anthroplasty – and are living with implants. In the past, physicians typically recommended hip replacement for older patients because they tend to be less active and put less stress on the artificial hip compared to younger people. But today, the procedure is also an option for those who are younger and more active due to technologically improved implants that can withstand more stress, endure more strain and last longer.
The procedure to replace hips has changed with the times, too. Traditionally, the operation to remove the head of the thighbone and replace the ball-and-socket mechanism in the hip with artificial implants was done making a 10 to 12-inch incision on the side of the hip. The muscles would then be detached from the hip, which would be dislocated. In recent years, however, a new technique called minimally invasive hip replacement has been developed that allows the surgeon to perform the surgery through one or two smaller incisions.
Minimally invasive hip replacement does less damage to the soft tissue, making recovery easier than traditional methods of hip replacement surgeries. If only one incision is required for minimally invasive hip replacement, it is typically only three to six inches long and is made over the outside of the hip. The muscles and tendons are split, but to a lesser extent than with traditional surgery, and they usually are repaired after implantation to encourage healing and help prevent hip dislocation.
Not everyone is a candidate for minimally invasive hip replacement. Patients who may be able to take advantage of the new procedure include those who are age 50 or younger, have a normal weight, and are in general good health. There are numerous benefits associated with minimally invasive hip replacement compared to the traditional method of surgery, which may include:
- Smaller scars
- Reduced blood loss
- Shorter hospital stay
- Faster rehabilitation
- Earlier return to normal activities
Hip replacement surgery, whether traditional or minimally invasive, is performed to help decrease pain, increase mobility and improve quality of life. It may be recommended if other treatment methods, such as exercise, walking aids or medication, are not effective. High-impact activitiesshould be avoided after surgery. Instead, patients can walk, swim or ride a stationary bicycle to increase muscle strength and improve cardiovascular health without injuring their new hip. Doubles tennis, low-intensity basketball and slow jogging may also be performed.