What is hip arthroscopy?
Hip arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that allows your surgeon to see inside your hip using a camera inserted through small cuts in the skin. It is used to examine, diagnose and treat problems that are causing pain and/or restricted movement in your hip.
What conditions are treated by hip arthroscopy?
A hip arthroscopy may be recommended if your hip pain hasn’t responded to non-surgical treatments such as rest, physiotherapy, medications and injections.
Most commonly a hip arthroscopy is performed to:
- Remove small loose pieces of bone or cartilage inside your hip joint that can get caught between the bone surfaces and cause pain.
- Repair a torn labrum (the cartilage rim of the hip joint that helps provide a suction seal for the fluid in your joint). Sometimes the labrum can get torn and lead to episodes of acute pain in your hip and a feeling of giving way.
Hip arthroscopy may also be used to treat:
- Hip impingement syndrome, also called femora-acetabular impingement (FAI). A disorder where bone spurs cause damage around your socket or femoral head.
- Synovitis where the surrounding tissues of your hip joint become inflamed.
- Snapping hip syndrome where your tendon becomes damaged from repeated rubbing.
- Hip joint infection
What does a hip arthroscopy involve?
A hip arthroscopy is often performed as a day case procedure under general anaesthetic. The operation takes between 30 and 90 minutes.
Your surgeon will make a small surgical cut to insert an arthroscope to look inside your hip. An arthroscope is made up of a tiny tube, a lens and a light source. Images are sent from the arthroscope to a video screen or an eyepiece, so your surgeon is able to see inside your joint.
The inside of your hip joint will be examined and your surgeon will decide whether an operation is required. Other small incisions may be made to insert medical instruments to remove fluid, diseased tissue or bone or to repair damage in your hip joint area.
Immediately after your operation you’ll be taken to a recovery area, monitored and given painkillers as needed.
What are the benefits?
The main benefit of a hip arthroscopy is to confirm your hip problem and in many cases treatment can be performed at the same time. Hip pain is reduced and mobility is often immediately restored following the procedure.
The advantage of arthroscopy over traditional open surgery is that the joint does not have to be opened up fully.
Are there any alternatives?
CT or MRI scans can often be used to diagnose problems of the hip joint. However, sometimes a hip arthroscopy may be needed to confirm diagnosis and also to treat the problem.
What are the risks?
Complications from hip arthroscopy are uncommon. As with any surgical procedure, there could be complications including: pain, bleeding, infection on the wound, scarring, difficulty passing urine and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Specific complications of a hip arthroscopy include damage to the surrounding nerves or vessels, or the joint itself. The traction needed for the procedure can stretch nerves and cause numbness, localised stiffness and pain but this is usually temporary.
How soon will I recover?
Most people who have a hip arthroscopy are able to leave hospital either on the same day of the procedure or the following morning. Before leaving hospital, you may have an appointment with a physiotherapist to discuss exercises for you to do at home and advice to help you to recover from the operation. It can take a few weeks to get back to normal activities and regular exercise should help. Before you start exercising, you should ask a member of your healthcare team or your GP for advice.
A hip arthroscopy allows your surgeon to diagnose and treat problems affecting the hip without the need for a large cut in the skin. This may reduce the amount of pain you feel and speed up your recovery after surgery.