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General Orthopaedics


The Current Concepts in Joint Replacement (CCJR) Spring 2018 Meeting, Las Vegas, NV, USA, 20–23 May 2018.


Anterior surgical approaches for total hip arthroplasty (THA) have increased popularity due to expected faster recovery and less pain. However, the direct anterior approach (Heuter approach which has been popularised by Matta) has been associated with a higher rate of early revisions than other approaches due to femoral component loosening and fractures. It is also noted to have a long learning curve and other unique complications like anterior femoral cutaneous and femoral nerve injuries. Most surgeons performing this approach will require the use of an expensive special operating table. An alternative to the direct anterior approach is the anterior-based muscle-sparing approach. It is also known as the modified Watson-Jones approach, anterolateral muscle-sparing approach, minimally invasive anterolateral approach and the Röttinger approach. With this technique, the hip joint is approached through the muscle interval between the tensor fascia lata and the gluteal muscles, as opposed to the direct anterior approach which is between the sartorius and rectus femoris and the tensor fascia lata. This approach places the femoral nerve at less risk for injury. I perform this technique in the lateral decubitus position, but it can also be performed in the supine position. An inexpensive home-made laminated L-shaped board is clamped on end of table allowing the ipsilateral leg to extend, adduct, and externally rotate during the femoral preparation.

This approach for THA has been reported to produce excellent results. One study reports a complication rate of 0.6% femoral fracture rate and 0.4% revision rate for femoral stem loosening. In a prospective randomised trial looking at the learning curve with new approach, the anterior-based muscle-sparing anterior approach had lower complications than a direct anterior approach. The complications and mean operative time with this approach are reported to be no different than a direct lateral approach. Since this surgical approach is not through an internervous interval, a concern is that this may result in a permanent functional defect as result of injury to the superior gluteal nerve. At a median follow-up of 9.3 months, a MRI study showed 42% of patients with this approach had fat replacement of the tensor fascia lata, which is thought to be irreversible. The clinical significance remains unclear, and inconsequential in my experience. A comparison MRI study showed that there was more damage and atrophy to the gluteus medius muscle with a direct lateral approach at 3 and 12 months. My anecdotal experience is that there is faster recovery and less early pain with this approach.

A study of the first 57 patients I performed showed significantly less pain and faster recovery in the first six weeks in patients performed with the anterior-based muscle-sparing approach when compared to a matched cohort of THA patients performed with a direct lateral approach. From 2004 to 2017, I have performed 1308 total hip replacements with the anterior-based muscle sparing approach. Alternatively, I will use the direct lateral approach for patients with stiff hips with significant flexion and/or external rotation contractures where I anticipate difficulty with femoral exposure, osteoporotic femurs due to increased risk of intraoperative trochanteric fractures, previously operated hips with scarring or retained hardware, and Crowe III-IV dysplastic hips when there may be a need for a femoral shortening or derotational osteotomy. Complications have been very infrequent. This approach is a viable alternative to the direct anterior approach for patients desiring a fast recovery. The anterior-based muscle-sparing approach is the approach that I currently use for all outpatient total hip surgeries.