The choice of surgical approach for THA remains controversial. Some studies suggest that the direct anterior approach (DAA) leads to less muscle damage than the miniposterior approach (MPA), but there is little high-quality evidence indicating whether this accelerates recovery, or whether this approach—which may be technically more demanding—is associated with component malposition or more complications.Questions/purposes
(1) Does the DAA result in faster return to activities of daily living than the MPA? (2) Does the DAA have superior patient-reported outcome measures than the MPA? (3) Does the DAA result in improved radiographic outcomes than the MPA? (4) Does the DAA have a higher risk of complications than the MPA?Methods
Between March 1, 2013, and May 31, 2016, 116 patients undergoing primary unilateral THA were randomized to either the DAA or MPA; 15 patients withdrew after randomization, and one died 6 months after surgery from a stroke unrelated to the procedure. Recruitment stopped when 52 patients had been randomized into the DAA group and 49 in the MPA group (n = 101). After patient randomization, one high-volume surgeon performed all of the DAAs and three high-volume surgeons performed the MPA THAs. The groups did not differ in age (65 years; SD 11; range, 38-86 years), sex (52% women), or body mass index (mean 29 kg/m2; SD 6 kg/m2; range, 21-40 kg/m2; all p > 0.40). Functional results included time to discontinue gait aids, discontinue all narcotics, and independence with various activities of daily living; accelerometer data evaluated activity level. Clinical and radiographic outcomes, Hip disability and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score, SF-12, and Harris hip scores to 1 year were also tabulated. The minimum followup was 365 days (mean ± SD, 627 ± 369 days).Results
There were slight differences in early functional recovery that favored the DAA versus the MPA: time to discontinue walker use (10 versus 15 days, p = 0.01) and time to discontinue all gait aids (17 versus 24 days, p = 0.04). There were no other differences in early functional milestones, although at 2 weeks after surgery, mean steps per day were 3897 (SD 2258; range, 737-11,010) for the DAA versus 2235 for the MPA (SD 1688; range, 27-7450; p < 0.01). There was no difference in activity monitoring at 1 year. There were no differences in patient-reported outcome scores between the groups. There was no difference in the radiographic parameters measured in the two groups, including leg length discrepancy, component position, or offset, and there was no subsidence observed in any hip. There was no difference in complications between the DAA and the MPA groups (8% [four of 52] versus 10% [five of 49]; p = 0.33).Conclusions
Both the DAA and MPA approaches provided excellent early recovery with a low risk of complications. Patients undergoing the DAA had a slightly faster recovery, as measured by milestones of function and quantified by activity monitor data, but no substantive differences were evident at 2 months. Because the DAA is the less studied approach, longer term (> 1 year) complications may yet accrue, will be important to quantify, and may offset early benefits.Level of Evidence
Level I, therapeutic study.