Surgical Approaches

What is a surgical approach? It is the direction that the surgeon uses in getting to the hip joint through the skin and soft tissues. The scar left around the hip after total hip replacement is the direction the surgeon took. Why do we talk about it? The surgical approach used can have an effect on your recovery after surgery. Also, you may be concerned with the scar location and length.

There are a number of ways to get to the hip joint. The approach or scar can be on the butt in the back of the body and that is called the posterior approach. The cut can be made on the side of the hip and that is the lateral approach. Sometimes, the cut may be in between the two mentioned before and it is called the posterolateral approach. The cut or incision can be straight or slightly curved and it can be long or short.

In order to get to the hip joint deep in the body, the skin is cut open first and then the soft tissue below are separated and detached. The hip joint by nature is quite stable because it is a ball and socket joint. Moreover, it is well bound and held together by soft tissue structures of several inches in total thickness. The soft tissue structures are muscles, tendons and joint capsule. So, these make the hip joint very stable. After the surgery, the split and detached muscles are repaired and it will take some time for the soft tissue structure to heal. In walking, the movement of the hip joint is powered by the muscles. When the hip moves, the soft tissue around it also moves. So, moving the healing muscles can become a source of pain.

The two common surgical approaches are the Standard Posterior Approach and the Lateral Approach.