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Do Postoperative Results Differ in a Randomized Trial Between a Direct Anterior and a Direct Lateral Approach in THA?

Mjaaland, Knut Erik MD; Kivle, Kjetil MD; Svenningsen, Svein MD, PhD; Nordsletten, Lars MD, PhD

Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research®: January 2019 - Volume 477 - Issue 1 - p 145–155
doi: 10.1097/CORR.0000000000000439

Background The direct lateral approach to THA provides good exposure and is associated with a low risk of dislocations, but can result in damage to the abductor muscles. The direct anterior approach does not incise muscle, and so recovery after surgery may be faster, but it has been associated with complications (including fractures and nerve injuries), and it involves a learning curve for surgeons who are unfamiliar with it. Few randomized trials have compared these approaches with respect to objective endpoints as well as validated outcome scores.

Questions/purposes The purpose of this study was to compare the direct anterior approach with the direct lateral approach to THA with respect to (1) patient-reported and validated outcomes scores; (2) frequency and persistence of abductor weakness, as demonstrated by the Trendelenburg test; and (3) major complications such as infection, dislocation, reoperation, or neurovascular injury.

Methods We performed a randomized controlled trial recruiting patients from January 2012 to June 2013. One hundred sixty-four patients with end-stage osteoarthritis were included and randomized to either the direct anterior or direct lateral approach. Before surgery and at 3, 6, 12, and 24 months, a physiotherapist recorded the Harris hip score (HHS), 6-minute walk distance (6MWD), and performed the Trendelenburg test directly after the 6MWD. The patients completed the Oxford Hip Score (OHS) and the EQ-5D. The groups were not different at baseline with respect to demographic data and preoperative scores. Both groups received the same pre- and postoperative regimes. Assessors were blinded to the approach used. One hundred fifty-four patients (94%) completed the 2-year followup; five patients from each group were lost to followup.

Results There were few statistical differences and no clinically important differences in terms of validated or patient-reported outcomes scores (including the HHS, 6MWD, OHS, or EQ-5D) between the direct anterior and the lateral approach at any time point. A higher proportion of patients had a persistently positive Trendelenburg test 24 months after surgery in the lateral approach than the direct anterior approach (16% [12 of 75] versus 1% [one of 79]; odds ratio, 15; p = 0.001). Irrespective of approach, those with a positive Trendelenburg test had statistically and clinically important worse HHS, OHS, and EQ-5D scores than those with a negative Trendelenburg test. There were four major nerve injuries in the direct anterior group (three transient femoral nerve injuries, resolved by 3 months after surgery, and one tibial nerve injury with symptoms that persist 24 months after surgery) and none in the lateral approach.

Conclusions Based on our findings, no case for superiority of one approach over the other can be made, except for the reduction in postoperative Trendelenburg test-positive patients using the direct anterior approach compared with when using the direct lateral approach. Irrespective of approach, patients with a positive Trendelenburg test had clinically worse scores than those with a negative test, indicating the importance of ensuring good abductor function when performing THA. The direct anterior approach was associated with nerve injuries that were not seen in the group treated with the lateral approach.

Level of Evidence Level I, therapeutic study.

K. E. Mjaaland, S. Svenningsen, Orthodaedic Department, Sorlandet Hospital, Arendal, Norway

K. E. Mjaaland, K. Kivle, L. Nordsletten, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

K. Kivle, L. Nordsletten, Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway

K. E. Mjaaland, Orthodaedic Department Sorlandet Hospital PO Box 783 Stoa 4809 Arendal, Norway email:

One of the authors (KEM) reports personal fees from Ortomedic (Lysaker, Norway) outside the submitted work. One of the authors (LN) reports personal fees from Ortomedic and personal fees from Eli Lilly (Lysaker, Norway) outside the submitted work.

All ICMJE Conflict of Interest Forms for authors and Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research® editors and board members are on file with the publication and can be viewed on request.

Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research® neither advocates nor endorses the use of any treatment, drug, or device. Readers are encouraged to always seek additional information, including FDA approval status, of any drug or device before clinical use.

Each author certifies that his institution approved the human protocol for this investigation and that all investigations were conducted in conformity with ethical principles of research.

This work was performed at Sorlandet Hospital, Arendal, Norway.

Received January 28, 2018

Accepted July 18, 2018

© 2019 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins LWW
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