What Is a Total Hip Arthroscopy?

Christina Whyte
Christina Whyte
Arthroscopy involves inserting a viewing instrument through a small hole in the hip joint.
Arthroscopy involves inserting a viewing instrument through a small hole in the hip joint.

A total hip arthroscopy is a surgical technique used to view and treat a number of problems with the hip joint, including tears in cartilage, bone spurs, and loose bits of floating cartilage. It is a minimally invasive surgery, and has a shorter healing period and less chance of complications than traditional hip surgery. In many cases it can prevent or delay the need for more invasive and complex hip surgeries, such as hip replacement, especially if combined with an effective physical therapy program.

Several small incisions are used in total hip arthroscopy as opposed to conventional open surgery, which usually uses one large incision. The surgeon inserts a small camera, called an arthroscope, and the surgical instruments into the joint. Any needed repairs or treatment is performed while the surgeon views the inside of the joint on a television screen. This surgery is usually performed with general anesthesia, and in most cases the patient can go home the same day.

Some complications may arise during or after total hip arthroscopy. Negative reactions to the anesthesia used, bleeding, infection, and pain are risks of surgery in general. Rare but possible complications include injury to the blood vessels, nerves, and other structures surrounding the hip joint. This procedure has fewer risks because the instruments are inserted into the joint rather than having to open the whole area and potentially damage the bones, joints, and connective tissue in order to access the joint, like in open surgery.

The length of the recovery period after total hip arthroscopy will be dependent on the underlying condition that necessitated surgery, the extent of surgery required, the patient's health, and exercise after surgery. Rehabilitation exercises during recovery after total hip arthroscopy are crucial. Not performing recommended exercises can lead to stiffness, pain, and a poor outcome, possibly including disability or the need for more extensive surgery. Patients should work with a qualified physical therapist to develop an exercise plan that supports recovery and strengthening of the joint while respecting the limitations of the patient.

Total hip arthroscopy may delay or avert the need for a total hip replacement or other more extensive hip surgery. This is important because more intensive surgery requires a longer recovery period and involves more risk, pain, and rehabilitation for the patient. Some conditions can be treated successfully with this procedure and appropriate rehabilitation, but some conditions will require repeated arthroscopies or other surgery later.

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    • Arthroscopy involves inserting a viewing instrument through a small hole in the hip joint.
      By: Alila Medical Media
      Arthroscopy involves inserting a viewing instrument through a small hole in the hip joint.