Home / Featured / Anterior Approach to Hip Replacement Surgery at Abington Improves Patient Quality-of-Life

Anterior Approach to Hip Replacement Surgery at Abington Improves Patient Quality-of-Life

AndyStarBy Andrew M. Star, MD

Hip arthroplasty has been a successful procedure for more than four decades. Yet, as doctors performing this surgery, we continually found ourselves repeating a list of “don’ts” to our patients as they faced the long recovery after hip replacement surgery: “Don’t get in a car,” “Don’t bend over,” “Don’t sleep on your side,” and other restrictions.

This discouraging, but important, post-operative advice was a by-product of standard  arthroplasty, in which the surgeon removes the hip joint using a lateral or posterior approach, cutting muscles, ligaments and tendons along the way. Proper recovery takes several months and requires the patient to limit hip motion during that time. Those restrictions following standard arthroplasty allow tissue to heal adequately, as well as reduce the significant and ongoing risk of dislocation. As a result, patients have to be cautious when sitting down, putting on shoes, climbing stairs and doing other simple movements of daily life.

Now, for many of our hip replacement patients at Abington Memorial Hospital, we’re changing our approach—literally—by performing hip arthroplasty from an anterior (front) direction. This enables us to avoid cutting muscles, which are attached to the pelvis or femur, thus causing less trauma and preserving hip stability for post-operative activities.

Patients who receive anterior hip replacement often experience less blood loss, shorter hospital stays, less pain and faster recoveries. Unlike the dislocation risk of standard arthroplasty, there have been no dislocations in the more than 200 patients who have received new hips at Abington Memorial Hospital through the anterior approach.

This surgery is appropriate for most patients whose hip complaints arise from degenerative arthritis. We do not use it with patients who have had multiple prior surgeries or who have severe bone deformities (conventional surgery gives more access to address those problems). Both younger and older patients do well with anterior hip replacement and appreciate being able to avoid the considerable disruption to work and personal activities experienced after standard arthroplasty.

Because we haven’t cut any posterior structures in anterior hip replacement, the quality-of-life differences for patients have been dramatic. We can let them go at their own pace for healing and moving after surgery, with minimal precautions. Many are back to normal and walking without cane assistance within a few weeks.

Initially, we used anterior hip replacement with a small group of patients, most of whom were thin. Working on a traditional surgical table, it was difficult to achieve front access to the hip joints of more muscular or obese patients. Nonetheless, over a three-year period, the percentage of my hip replacement patients having anterior surgery at Abington grew from 10 percent to over 50 percent.

That number will likely climb to 80 or 90 percent shortly now that Abington recently acquired and put into service an innovative surgical table specially designed for anterior approach surgery and available in only a few hospitals nationwide. The advanced design of the hana™ Hip and Knee Arthroplasty Table, allows us to work through a smaller incision, with the patient’s leg extended downward. We can then hyperextend, adduct and rotate the hip for proper femoral positioning without disturbing or detaching tissues. Conventional operating-room tables do not allow such manipulation.

The new technology of the hana™ table also enables x-ray imaging to determine leg length with greater control and improved implant placement. At Abington, we use contemporary ceramic, metal or plastic hip replacement devices in anterior, as well as conventional arthroplasty.

Having performed joint replacement surgery now for over 20 years, it is so gratifying to have many of our anterior patients feel well enough to ask to go home within a day after their surgery. Of course, our goal at Abington is always to do things safely, so we discharge our patients as quickly as is possible clinically. Their enthusiasm is so encouraging to our entire clinical team including the nurses who care for our patients post-operatively. None of these patients has suffered a dislocation of the joint following surgery.

Best of all, we are helping patients—who were in pain and limiting movement—to enjoy  physical activities and a fuller life again, more quickly.


Andrew M. Star, MD, is Chief, Orthopaedic Surgery Division and Director, Joint Replacement Surgery, at Abington Memorial Hospital (www.amh.org).


  1. I’m a 54 year old male looking for any hip procedure that will allow me to work out on my treadmill machine at a walking pace (of course). The problem I am worried about is having to have the another operation again sooner because of the fact that I do intend to workout. I hear there is a procedure called the “Young man hip replacement). Is this for me? I feel very fortunate to have many great hip replacement facilities in my area. But after hearing so many of their commercials I feel alittle overwhelmed as to which one would best fit my need. This new procedureas I understand it would cut down on my recivery time. This is good since I live alone. But I am wondering is there any way to know how long before I have to repeat this surgery given all the available materials.

  2. my healthy 76 year old mother went in for anterior total hip replacement after 3 years of suffering with an arthritic hip. she was in moderate pain and walked haltingly but unaided. my mother was scheduled for surgery at 2 pm. her surgery was started at 8:40 pm and finished at 10:30 pm. the surgeon had been performing surgeries since 8:00 am. the surgeon severed her femoral nerve. my mother is now completely hndicapped. she cannot walk, sit up or care for herself. no amount of therapy helps. she has not improved even slightly. the surgeon has evaded all inquires and we have attempted to find another dr. none will bother with us since the initial surgeon is well known and liked in our community. all i can say is that AT WHATEVER COST…DO NOT HAVE A TOTAL HIP REPLACEMENT VIA AN ANTERIOR APPROACH!!!…my mother’s life has been ruined as well as those who care for her.

    rob walbridge

  3. I am a 44 year old male, who has sustained numerous injuries working in Law enforcement (NYPD). I have seen many Doctors in NY, & all say Hip Replacement is necessary. At first It was believed by one Doctor, that the Hip Recerfacing was the way to go, but I was told that there have been many problems with this procedure. I also mentioned the Anterior approach which makes sense but the same Doctor stated that there are more Dislocations, and Nerve damage from this Approach. I would like to know if he is correct or is the Anterior Hip Replacement Approach safe when in comes to Nerves and Dislocation. I furthermore would like to know if the Product from Striker is used as the Replacement Joint.
    Thank’s for your answers: Thomas P

  4. Michael Reeves


    Do you happen to know if this operation is being performed by anyone in the UK? I cannot find it here.
    I could come to USA but would have to pay myself whereas in UK I am insured. I could afford it but not if there were any complications. My friend had it done and his own bone fractured afterwards needing further surgery, the old posterior operation and months of recovery.

    Mike Reeves

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