The modified anterolateral approach is the most commonly used approach in contemporary hip replacement surgery.
The patient is placed on her side and a straight incision of about 10 centimetres is made down the thigh centred on the greater trochanter (this is the 'bump' you can feel if you run your palm down the outside of your thigh.
The muscles beneath the incision (the gluteus medius and the vastus lateralis) are then cut along the length of the fibres, exposing the joint capsule. The capsule can then be cut open and the hip joint replaced.
The following link will take you to a YouTube video showing the preliminary stages of the surgery. It doesn't show the hip being replaced but how the surgeon approaches the hip in order to replace it.
*WARNING* It is not for the squeamish as its a real-life operation.
The modified anterolateral approach is just one way that a surgeon can perform a hip replacement. Some surgeons seem to prefer to use one approach over the others but they all will take into account considerations like your medical history, the presenting problem, your age, weight and mobility.
Learning about the different approaches will enable you to have an informed discussion with your surgeon but you may not get to pick! However, your surgeon should explain why he thinks a particular approach will benefit you over the others.
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