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Dr. Stephen J. Incavo

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Surgical approach significantly affects the complication rates associated with total hip arthroplasty

K. Aggarwal, A. Elbuluk, J. Dundon, C. Herrero, C. Hernandez, J. M. Vigdorchik, R. Schwarzkopf, R. Iorio, W. J. Long

From NYU Langone Medical Center, New York, New York, United States
Correspondence should be sent to V. K. Aggarwal; email:

©2019 The British Editorial Society of Bone & Joint Surgery doi:10.1302/0301-620X.101B6. BJJ-2018-1474.R1 $2.00

Bone Joint J 2019;101-B:646–651.

Sugical Approach


A variety of surgical approaches are used for total hip arthroplasty (THA), all with reported advantages and disadvantages. A number of common complications can occur following THA regardless of the approach used. The purpose of this study was to compare five commonly used surgical approaches with respect to the incidence of surgery-related complications.

Patients and Methods

The electronic medical records of all patients who underwent primary elective THA at a single large-volume arthroplasty centre, between 2011 and 2016, with at least two years of follow-up, were reviewed. After exclusion, 3574 consecutive patients were included in the study. There were 1571 men (44.0%) and 2003 women (56.0%). Their mean age and body mass index (BMI) was 63.0 years (sd 11.8) and 29.1 kg/m2 (sd 6.1), respectively. Data gathered included the age of the patient, BMI, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) score, estimated blood loss (EBL), length of stay (LOS), operating time, the presence of intra- or postoperative complications, type of complication, and the surgical approach. The approaches used during the study were posterior, anterior, direct lateral, anterolateral, and the northern approach. The complications that were recorded included prolonged wound drainage without infection, superficial infection, deep infection, dislocation, aseptic loosening, and periprosthetic fracture. Finally, the need for re-operation was recorded. Means were compared using analysis of variance (ANOVA) and Student’s t-tests where appropriate and proportions were compared using the chi-squared test.


A total of 248 patients had 263 complications related to the surgery, with an incidence of 6.94%. The anterior approach had the highest incidence of complications (8.5% (113/1329)) and the posterior approach had the lowest, at 5.85% (97/1657; p = 0.006). Most complications were due to deep infection (22.8%), periprosthetic fracture (22.4%), and prolonged wound drainage (21.3%). The rate of dislocation was 0.84% (14/1657) with the posterior approach and 1.28% (17/1329) with the anterior approach (p = 0.32).


Overall, THA has a relatively low complication rate. However, the surgical approach plays a role in the incidence of complications. We found that the posterior approach had a significantly lower overall complication rate compared with the anterior approach, with an equal dislocation rate. Periprosthetic fracture and surgical site infection contributed most to the early complication rates.

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