New hip replacement method is less invasive, reduces recovery time

September 12, 2013 7:57:30 PM PDT
An alternative method of performing hip replacements is now making in-roads here in the US. Proponents of this new method say it's both less invasive and can significantly cut down on the amount of recovery time.

For Hank Minkey, skateboarding with his kids is like having his life back again.

The 47-year-old father of two children spent decades pursuing extreme sports, including professional surfing.

"Surfing, skateboarding, martial arts, jujitsu," Minkey said.

But, eventually, Minkey wound up shredding more than the waves.

After suffering increasing pain in his lower body, an MRI scan finally revealed severe hip damage.

"They said I had no cartilage left at all, and that the joints were you know, well past worn out, and that in my case, I needed to have both of my hips replaced," Minkey said.

"Modern hip replacements are made up of a few different parts," Dr. Nicholas Mast said.

He turned to Mast at St. Francis Medical Center in San Francisco, who specializes in an alternative procedure known as anterior hip replacement.

It's proponents say it's less invasive, and allows the surgeon to minimize the amount of muscle tissue cut during the operation.

"But probably the most important one for the patient is that there's reduced recovery time and less post-operative restrictions," Mast said.

We watched as doctor mast performed an anterior replacement. It involves the use of a special table that immobilizes the leg and allows the surgeon to enter from the front of the thigh, as opposed to the rear, or posterior approach.

The system relies on x-ray imaging to help guide the placement of a rod into the femur, capped with a new artificial ball joint.

Like other proponents, Mast believes the less invasive approach leaves the joint more stable during recovery, and lessons the risk of separation.

But critics say there is no conclusive evidence of the pros and cons of the anterior approach versus traditional hip replacement. Interest in it is growing so much though, that the Mayo Clinic has just launched clinical trials comparing the two. Data from that though won't be available for several years.

After implanting the ball and joint, Mast compares the placement to images taken before the procedure.

"We've got pretty good reproduction of the geometry of his hip," Mast said.

Supporters say the technique can shave several weeks off the recovery time.

Minkey was back home two days after his double hip replacement. He's now seven months into his recovery.

"You know, I pretty much have my life back, which is really amazing. I surf and skateboard. I'm back to almost training jujitsu lightly and the most important part is I'm able to be with my kids," Minkey said.

Mast says the technique can be used with a variety of artificial hip devices, and doesn't limit you to a specific brand of implant.

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