There is paucity of literature evaluating anterior acetabular retractor proximity to the femoral nerve and external iliac vessels during total hip arthroplasty through the direct anterior approach. In this cadaveric study, we evaluated three retractor locations to identify optimal positioning of anterior retractors.
A direct anterior approach was performed in 22 hips of 15 cadavers. Anterior acetabular retractors were placed over the anterior acetabular wall in-line with the femoral neck (12-o'clock or middle position). The anterior neurovascular structures were identified through the ilioinguinal approach. Retractors were reinserted at 10-o'clock (right hip; superior) and 2-o'clock (right hip; inferior) locations marked using K-wires. Horizontal and vertical distances from retractor tip positions to neurovascular structures were measured with a digital caliper.
Retractor tips moved significantly from lateral to the femoral nerve when placed in the superior position (mean, 2.8 mm) to medial to the femoral nerve in the middle (mean, −2.3 mm) and inferior (mean, −4.8 mm) locations. Retractor tips moved significantly medial toward the external iliac artery when retractors were moved from superior (mean, 15.3 mm) to inferior (mean, 6.6 mm) positions placing the retractor tip closer to the vessels.
As retractor placements moved inferior, retractor tips moved medial to neurovascular structures. Inferior retractor positioning placed the femoral nerve and external iliac artery at the risk of injury during the initial retractor placement or adjustment. Retractors should be placed in a relative safe zone superior to the 12-o'clock position to avoid damage to neurovascular structures.
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