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NERVE INJURY AFTER POSTERIOR AND DIRECT LATERAL APPROACHES FOR HIP REPLACEMENT. A CLINICAL AND ELECTROPHYSIOLOGICAL STUDY

ADRIAN E. WEALE, PIERS NEWMAN, IAN T. FERGUSON, GORDON C. BANNISTER

From Southmead Hospital, Bristol, England

Nerve injury is a rare complication of total hip replacement which may be related to the exposure used for the operation.

The posterior approach is traditionally associated with injury to the sciaticnerve. We have compared the incidence of nerve injury after primary total hip replacement (THR) using either a posterior or a direct lateral approach.

We studied 42 consecutive patients undergoing primary total hip replacement. The surgeons used a posterior (22 patients) or direct lateral (20 patients) approach in accordance with their normal practice.

The obturator, femoral, posterior tibial and common peroneal nerves were assessed clinically and electrophysiologically by electromyography (EMG) and measurement of the velocity of nerve conduction before operation and at four weeks after.

All patients were free from symptoms of nerve injury after operation but five lesions were identified in four patients by the electrophysiological studies; the obturator nerve was involved in two, the femoral in one, the common peroneal in one and the posterior tibial in one. All these injuries occurred using the lateral approach.

Clinical assessment alone underestimates the incidence of nerve injury complicating THR. Our study does not confirm the association of nerve injurywith the posterior approach which had been described previously.

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J Bone Joint Surg [Br] 1996; 78-B: 899-902. Received 12 February 1996; Accepted after revision 26 June 1996

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