Hip-replacement surgery, in general, involves replacing the cartilage with an artificial liner and replacing the top of the thigh bone. The new top has a stem, which is anchored into the thigh bone. It takes time for the bone to adhere to the new part.
For orthopedic surgeons, accessing the joint is like charting a course to a snowy peak – there are various routes, all carrying risks and rewards. Part of the challenge is navigating the formidable terrain of muscles and soft tissue, including the thick hip joint capsule, with as little disruption as possible.
One widely used, time-tested procedure, called the “posterior approach” because of the point of entry, compels a couple of months of limits on movement postoperatively, while the muscles and soft tissue heal. Newer surgeries, broadly referred to as “minimally invasive,” have reduced or eliminated those restrictions, meaning less chance of complications, less time in the hospital and faster healing. According to Drinker, all surgeries, even the posterior one, are less invasive than in the past, and have the same end result – a sturdy hip free from arthritis pain, that can last for more than 20 years. For those who have hip replacement, “it is life-changing,” Drinker said.
Drinker works at Hampshire Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Inc., in Hatfield. He also is medical director of Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s joint replacement center. Drinker and Dr. Robert Krushell of New England Orthopedic Surgeons in Springfield use versions of the posterior approach. Krushell calls his a “mini-posterior that creates relatively little disruption of tissues around the hip. It doesn’t compromise muscle strength.”
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