I'm going to have a total hip replacement next week with the new minimally invasive surgery. The surgeon has explained how this is to my advantage, but mostly, I'm just interested in having a tiny incision. Am I going to be sorry I didn't have the standard type of incision? Will my vanity come around and bite me in the butt, so-to-speak?
You're not alone in your concern about form over function. Even if the minimally-invasive approach doesn't yield better functional outcomes, patients like how it looks. A shorter incision just looks better, and patients are asking for that. Patients also want an implant that will last as long as possible. And that factor is more important to them than the length of the scar or how long they are in the hospital.
There are many advantages to a minimally-invasive approach. And we're not talking about just a shorter incision line. Minimally invasive refers to the fact that the group of muscles usually cut to remove the old hip joint aren't touched. The gluteus maximus (buttock) muscle is split to get to the hip joint, but the length of the split is much shorter. The incision into the joint capsule is also smaller and repaired without any negative effects.
Studies are ongoing to assess the results of minimally-invasive surgeries. There are mixed reviews as to outcomes. In some studies, the operating time is shorter and there's less blood loss. In others, the operation is complex and may take more time if the surgeon hasn't done quite a few of them.
But the long-term results (a year or more later) don't really show much of an advantage of the minimally invasive approach over the standard incision. Walking distance, walking speed, and muscle strength appear to even out between the two surgical approaches.
There are still plenty of factors to consider when comparing the two approaches. Patient education, preoperative counseling, analgesia, and rehabilitation programs may be the real keys to recovery. While the surgical approach might make a difference, there's at least enough preliminary information to suggest that the postoperative treatment process may be equally (if not more) important.
Simon J. Wall, and Simon C. Mears, MD, PhD. Hip Reconstruction. Minimally Invasive Surgery for Total Hip Arthroplasty. In Current Orthopaedic Practice. January/February 2009. Vol. 20. No. 1. Pp. 25-28.
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