Hip arthroscopy is a very powerful tool for minimally treating many hip conditions and, in certain cases, helping preserve the joint from premature degeneration. During a hip scope, two or three small (half-inch) incisions are made over the hip, and a camera is inserted into the joint. The surgeon may then be able to:
- Repair a labrum back to its anatomic location
- Remove areas of bony impingement
- Remove loose bodies
- Address cartilage defects
Typically, the hip capsule, a structure very important for stability, is then sewn back together.
Candidates for hip arthroscopy
You may be a candidate for hip arthroscopy if you are an active individual who has hip pain and fairly well preserved cartilage surfaces, and you have failed to find relief through non-operative treatments. If you already have extensive cartilage loss in the hip, you may be better suited for a more substantial treatment, such as hip resurfacing or replacement.
Recovery from hip arthroscopy
Typically, most patients will be on crutches for three weeks, but may be asked to limit weight-bearing for 6 weeks. Physical therapy is important to restore motion, reduce the formation of adhesions, and rebuild strength and movement awareness.
After you are pain free and have regained normal strength, you can then gradually return to sports, usually between three and six months after surgery. An estimated 85 to 90 percent of athletes who have undergone hip arthroscopy have been able to return to sports or physical activities at a similar level of play compared to what they did prior to the onset of hip symptoms.
Risks associated with hip arthroscopy
Although hip arthroscopy is minimally invasive, any surgery, big or small, poses risks. There are risks associated with general anesthesia as well as a need for future surgery. In addition:
- In 2 to 5 percent of cases, a temporary numbness can occur around the hip or groin.
- In less than 1 percent of cases (with proper preventive care), a blood clot can form.
- In 2 to 3 percent of cases, patients have heterotopic bone formation in soft tissues.
Joint preservation, arthritis and cartilage injury
Hip arthroscopy can help you avoid a hip replacement, which not only carries significant surgical risks but also requires considerable lifestyle modifications and a potential need for future revision surgery. Injury to the hip can affect hip function and lead to degeneration later in life. Earlier intervention can reduce chronic wear within the hip, helping it stay healthier, longer, and delaying or eliminating the need for an eventual replacement.
However, arthritis in any joint can occur for a variety of reasons. So although the majority of patients get better after hip arthroscopy, the procedure does not completely eliminate the possibility of developing hip arthritis in all patients.