The direct anterior approach in total hip replacement anatomically offers the chance to minimise soft-tissue trauma because an intermuscular and internervous plane is explored. This motivated us to abandon our previously used transgluteal approach and to adopt the direct anterior approach for total hip replacement. Using MRI, we performed a retrospective comparative study of the direct anterior approach with the transgluteal approach. There were 25 patients in each group. At one year post-operatively all the patients underwent MRI of their replaced hips. A radiologist graded the changes in the soft-tissue signals in the abductor muscles. The groups were similar in terms of age, gender, body mass index, complexity of the reconstruction and absence of symptoms. Detachment of the abductor insertion, partial tears and tendonitis of gluteus medius and minimus, the presence of peri-trochanteric bursal fluid and fatty atrophy of gluteus medius and minimus were significantly less pronounced and less frequent when the direct anterior approach was used. There was no significant difference in the findings regarding tensor fascia lata between the two approaches. We conclude that use of the direct anterior approach results in a better soft-tissue response as assessed by MRI after total hip replacement. However, the impact on outcome needs to be evaluated further.