Joint replacement surgery options
Steven Myerthall, MD, is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon in internal medicine at Banner Estrella Medical Center.
Question: What is the difference between “traditional” total joint replacement surgery and “minimally invasive” or “minimal incision” total joint replacement surgery?
Answer: Traditional joint replacement surgeries, such as hip or knee replacement surgery, utilize 12- to 18-inch-long incisions and dissection through large leg muscles and tissues in order to replace a diseased hip or knee with an implant made of metal and plastic. This type of surgery results in a larger scar and disruption of more muscles and soft tissues. Additionally, the average hospital stay is five days and the average recovery time is three months.
Approximately five years ago, the development of smaller and more “streamlined” instruments for use during surgery allowed for smaller skin incisions and less muscle and soft tissue dissection during joint replacement surgery.
This form of surgery, called “minimally invasive” or “minimal incision” joint replacement surgery, utilizes incisions that are usually just 3 to 5 inches in length, and require less soft tissue dissection to replace worn out joints with an implant. The result is a smaller, less noticeable scar and less disruption of surrounding muscles and soft tissue.
Short-term studies have shown minimally invasive surgery to be safer. Additionally, minimally invasive surgery results in reduced blood loss during surgery, less post-operative pain, shorter hospital stays and quicker recovery, all without compromising long-term results. The long-term effects and success of minimally invasive joint replacement are being studied and are yet to be reported.