Total Hip Replacement Surgery Offers Faster-Healing When Using The Anterior Approach

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While it may take patients four to six months to fully recover following conventional hip replacement surgery, the anterior approach enables patients to recover in only four weeks. Dr. Joel Matta, orthopedic surgeon and founder of the Hip and Pelvis Institute at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, was the first to bring this method from Europe and develop it in the United States.

"The anterior approach is a revolutionary improvement in hip surgery," said Dr. Matta, who is the leading originator and innovator of this method in North America. "It makes patients heal so much faster, but it's still not offered across the board in U.S. hospitals."

Dr. Matta is on a personal mission to change this trend. He first witnessed the anterior approach to hip surgery in Paris, France some 25 years ago. Since learning from the small group of European surgeons who practiced this method, Dr. Matta has been instrumental in bringing awareness of the anterior approach to the United States and worldwide. He has performed over 1600 anterior approach hip replacement surgeries and continues to give instructional seminars for surgeons around the United States to introduce them to this method. Thanks to Dr. Matta, the procedure is growing rapidly -- over 400 surgeons will receive training this year alone.

The anterior approach is the most minimally invasive choice for people suffering from arthritis, hip pain, stiffness and limited hip movement. Following the anterior approach surgical procedure, patients are instructed to use their hip normally without cumbersome restrictions and are sent home from the hospital often in less than three days. Patients can immediately bend their hip freely and bear full weight when comfortable, resulting in a rapid return to normal function.

"I want patients and doctors alike to know about the anterior approach because it reduces pain, blood loss, scarring, muscle trauma and the risk of dislocation," Dr. Matta explains.

After conventional hip replacement surgery, patients must limit flexing of the hip to no more than 60 to 90 degrees, which complicates normal activities like sitting in a chair, on a toilet seat, putting on shoes or getting into a car. Simply climbing stairs may also be more difficult during recovery when following the conventional hip replacement surgery.

The anterior approach to hip surgery allows the surgeon to reach the hip joint from the front of the hip as opposed to the lateral (side) or the posterior (back) approach. This way, the hip can be replaced without detachment of muscle from the pelvis or femur during surgery as is performed in traditional surgery. The surgeon can simply work through the natural interval between the muscles. The most important muscles for hip function, the gluteal muscles that attach to the pelvis and femur, are left undisturbed and, therefore, do not require a healing process to recover from surgical trauma.

Dr. Matta has also advanced the technique even further by designing a special, state-of-the-art surgical table to replace the original French orthopedic "Judet table." Dr. Matta's table has unique capabilities to facilitate this smaller and less invasive approach. The table has carbon fiber spars that support the legs that move appropriately to manipulate the operated leg during surgery. Additionally, the table has a sterile motorized robotic attachment that reaches inside the wound and lifts the femur to an accessible position.

His numerous other surgical innovations and protocols for hip replacement reach beyond the original French technique.


Dr. Joel Matta is an orthopedic surgeon practicing hip and pelvic reconstruction. He is the founder and director of the Hip and Pelvis Institute at St John's Health Center in Santa Monica, CA. He is accredited with the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. He was also a full-time faculty member at the University of Southern California's School of Medicine from 1980 to 1990. Dr. Matta has authored over 100 scientific, instructional publications and videos about pelvis and hip surgery, and performed over 600 total hip replacement surgeries using the anterior approach. More information about the anterior approach can be found at


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