What is a mini total hip replacement?

The hip is a joint with a ball and socket. The top of the thigh bone (femoral head) is a smooth, rounded surface that fits into the hip socket (acetabulum). The bones are covered with smooth cartilage. This lets them glide against each other.

It’s common for this joint to experience wear and tear as you get older. For example, many people develop arthritis as they age. Osteoarthritis is a kind of arthritis that happens at the ends of the bones. It breaks down cartilage, causing swelling, pain, and deformity. Another problem some people have as they get older is brittle bones (osteoporosis). People with osteoporosis can break a hip or femur if they have a bad fall.

People who benefit from hip replacement surgery usually have hip pain or stiffness that is constant and interferes with daily activities, and they are not getting relief from physical therapy or pain medicine.

Total Hip Replacement Approaches

There are different kinds of hip replacement surgeries. For any hip replacement operation, the surgeon removes the damaged bone and cartilage from your hip and replaces them with man-made parts.

In a traditional total hip replacement, the incision is about 10 to 12 inches long. The surgeon removes the entire head of the thigh bone as well as the damaged bone in the hip socket. These bones are then replaced with a new head and socket made of metal. A ceramic, metal, or plastic spacer is put between the head and the socket so they can glide smoothly against each other.

In mini total hip replacement the process is similar but the incisions are smaller and different instruments are needed prepare the bones and place implants. The surgery can involve a single incision of about 3 to 6 inches (depending on your specific needs). Or, your surgeon may make two incisions, each about 2 inches long. In this case the surgeon would use x-rays to guide the procedure.

The hospital stay after mini total hip surgery is similar to that for traditional hip surgery.

Who is a candidate for mini total hip replacement surgery?

Your surgeon will evaluate your situation to determine what treatment will be best for you. In general this approach works best for patients who are thinner and healthier. These patients also need to be able to commit to a rehabilitation program.

Mini total hip replacement may not be the best choice for patients who have had other hip surgeries, are overweight, or who have certain other health problems.

What are the benefits?

A total hip replacement can help your hip work better, relieve your pain, and improve walking and motion of your leg.

A mini total hip replacement approach has some specific benefits:

  • Because the incisions are smaller, there is less damage to soft tissues.
  • Recovery is usually faster and less painful.
  • Return to normal activities is usually faster.
  • Evidence gathered so far indicates that long-term outcomes usually are about the same as with traditional hip replacement surgery. Your doctor will help you understand your options and which procedure and approach are best for your situation.

What are the risks and/or side effects?

Any hip surgery should be the last resort after trying nonsurgical options. It should only be considered if hip pain is having a large negative effect on your quality of life.

Some patients who’ve had mini total hip replacement have dislocated their hip joint. This usually happens in the first several months when the hip joint tissues are still healing. Advances in surgery and techniques have made it less common for patients in recent years to dislocate their hip after a total hip replacement.

It is important to choose a surgeon who uses up-to-date best practices, has a good reputation for successful surgeries, and is highly experienced in hip replacement. A good surgeon can produce excellent results with both anterior and mini-posterior hip replacements. The recovery time is the same for both approaches.

Possible complications of Surgery

Although complications are rare, the most common potential issues are:

  • Infection. The surgeon will give you antibiotics before your procedure to help fight off infection.
  • Blood clots. Blood clots are the most common complication of hip resurfacing surgery. They can form in the deep veins of the pelvis of the legs. Your doctor may give you blood-thinning medicine to help prevent blood clots from forming.
  • Hip dislocation.
  • Femoral neck fracture.
  • Possible risks from anesthesia.
  • Nerves or blood vessels could possibly be injured during the procedure.
  • Leg length differences.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I prepare?

To prepare for mini total hip replacement surgery, you will need a complete medical evaluation. You will also need x-rays and other tests to help your surgeon plan your surgery. Your surgeon may ask you to lose some weight before surgery to reduce the stress on your new hip.

You can also prepare by making sure your home is easier to get around in after your surgery. This may include adding safety rails in your shower or bath, getting a firm chair that’s easy to get out of, or rearranging the furniture to prevent tripping. Your surgeon’s office can give you more ideas.

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