Total hip replacement surgery has improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people over the past several decades. While hip replacement surgery restores mobility and quality of life in many patients, it is still considered major surgery and requires adequate rehabilitation therapy and recovery time before the patient can return to normal activities. Fortunately, for today’s hip replacement patients, a newer approach to surgery may speed healing and get you back on your feet sooner. The approach is called the anterior approach.In most cases, a hip replacement procedure is performed using a posterior approach; that is, accessing the hip joint from the patient’s back. However, when you operate from the back of the patient, your surgeon must cut and detach muscles from the pelvis and femur in order to access the hip joint. When you detach them, it destabilizes the hip, increasing the risk of dislocation after surgery. Because of the risk factors for dislocation, patients must avoid certain positions like bending and crossing the legs.Today, research suggests that an anterior approach—accessing the hip joint from the front of the patient’s body—gives patients even better results. First developed more than 50 years ago, the anterior approach is rapidly gaining favor because it is much less invasive than the posterior approach.From the front, a natural opening between muscles allows the surgeon to access the joint while leaving the muscles intact, so the risk of dislocation is far less. This also means that patients don’t have to avoid certain positions for weeks after surgery like with the posterior approach. Additionally, since muscles aren’t cut, the anterior approach causes less trauma to the body. As a result, patients experience less pain, a shorter length of stay in the hospital, faster recovery and faster return to normal activity levels.There are other advantages, too. Because the patient lies on his or her back for the anterior operation, surgeons can readily use X-ray during surgery to verify correct leg length and proper placement of the components. This helps ensure better results for the patient and a longer life for the prosthesis. The patient’s position also makes it easier to replace both hips at once, since the patient doesn’t have to be turned.Considering that the average age of a hip replacement patient is 65, and that advances in medicine allow people to continue to live longer, more active lives, it is all the more important to identify less invasive and traumatic approaches to this common surgery. This article was written by orthopedic surgeon Obi Osuji, M.D. Dr. Osuji is affiliated with MidState Medical Center and practices with Hartford HealthCare Medical Group Orthopedic Specialists.