Although one of the touted benefits of the direct anterior approach (DAA) includes decreased postoperative pain, there is no consensus on the effect of surgical approach on postoperative pain and subsequent analgesic consumption.
Consecutive patients undergoing total hip arthroplasty by a single surgeon from May 2016 to March 2020 were identified. Procedures were categorized as DAA or posterior approach. Patient demographics and surgical details were assessed. Patient-reported maximum pain by postoperative day (POD), total opioid consumption during hospitalization, and whether the patient required a refill of opioid prescription within 3 months after discharge were compared between the two surgical approaches through multivariate analyses.
A total of 611 patients were included in this study (447 DAA and 164 posterior approaches). On multivariate analyses that controlled for preoperative/intraoperative differences, patients in the DAA group had lower average maximum reported pain (0 to 10 scale) on POD #0 (6.5 versus 6.8, P = 0.034) and POD #1 (5.4 versus 6.1, P = 0.018). However, the DAA was not associated with a statistically significant reduction in total inpatient oral morphine equivalents consumed (79.8 versus 100.1, P = 0.486). Furthermore, there was no association between surgical approach and opioid prescription refill within 3 months after discharge (P = 0.864).
The DAA was associated with slightly lower patient-reported pain. Furthermore, statistical analysis did not provide the necessary evidence to reject the null hypothesis, which was that there would be no difference in opioid utilization between the two approaches. Other perioperative factors may be more important to opioid use reduction than the surgical approach alone.