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What is Arthroscopic Hip Surgery?

By H. Colledge
Updated May 17, 2024
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Arthroscopic hip surgery involves the use of a slender viewing telescope, which is inserted through a small hole into the hip joint, providing the surgeon with a view of the interior. As well as being able to see inside the hip, the surgeon can operate using delicate surgical instruments which are inserted through another small incision. Since this type of surgery does not involve making large cuts in the skin and opening up the joint, patients tend to recover more quickly and experience less pain after the operation compared with traditional hip surgery methods. Arthroscopic hip surgery may be used to remove loose pieces of tissue, to repair tears and to treat other areas of damage within the joint.

During the hip arthroscopy procedure the viewing instrument, known as an arthroscope, lights up the inside of the joint and transmits images which are displayed on a video monitor. This means that the surgeon is able to locate any problem areas. It also makes it possible to manipulate surgical tools accurately inside the hip while seeing exactly where they are on screen. An attachment may be used to flush fluid through the joint interior, which can help to give a clearer view.

Arthroscopic hip surgery is currently used for a range of conditions, including what is known as a labral tear. The hip joint is where the ball-shaped head of the thigh bone fits inside a socket-shaped hollow in the pelvis, and a rim of tissue that runs around the socket, making it deeper, is known as the labrum. If the labrum tears, part of the labral tissue, or cartilage, may become caught inside the hip joint causing it to click, freeze or give way. Using arthroscopic surgery, the piece of torn cartilage can be trimmed before it causes any long-term damage.

Another case where arthroscopic hip surgery is often used is for the removal of what are termed loose bodies. These are pieces of tissue which have broken away from the cartilage lining the surfaces of the hip joint. They move around freely inside the joint, often causing it to catch or lock, and leading to pain and damage over time. Loose bodies are sometimes difficult to see on an X-ray, and arthroscopy allows them to be viewed and, at the same time, removed.

Following arthroscopic hip surgery, patients are often able to go home rather than spending the night in hospital. It is usually possible to walk straight away, with the aid of crutches. After resting for several days, carrying out gentle exercises is encouraged as this is thought to be essential for joint mobility and beneficial for healing.

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