What is Hip Arthroscopy?

C. Ausbrooks

Hip arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to diagnose and treat various hip injuries and disorders. During the procedure, a tiny camera is inserted into the hip through small incisions made by the surgeon. The image is then transmitted to a television monitor, allowing the surgeon to determine the source of any pain or to treat an existing condition. If treatment is required, additional incisions are made to insert the necessary surgical tools.

Hip arthroscopy may be required to diagnose hip injuries.
Hip arthroscopy may be required to diagnose hip injuries.

Because hip arthroscopy is less invasive than traditional hip surgery, patients are able to recover more quickly and often return home the same day the procedure is performed. Some postoperative pain may be experienced for several days following the surgery, but pain medication is typically prescribed to aid in recovery. In most cases, patients are able to return to their normal activity level within one to three weeks. Athletes may need up to 12 weeks for full recovery, depending on the severity of the prior condition.

Crutches may be prescribed after a hip arthroscopy.
Crutches may be prescribed after a hip arthroscopy.

Patients are able to put as much weight as they can tolerate on the affected hip immediately after surgery, unless a weight limit has been established by the presiding physician. Crutches are usually prescribed to help the patient through the first few days of recovery. Motion around the hip joint is regained through physical therapy, exercises and stretches, although individual recovery programs will vary depending on the patient and procedure.

A number of different conditions can be treated by hip arthroscopy including labral tear, loose bodies, cartilage damage and even arthritis. A labral tear occurs when the tissue surrounding the hip joint is torn, causing extreme pain and discomfort. Loose bodies are small pieces of cartilage that form in the hip joint and become caught in the hip while moving. Loose bodies can result in snapping hip syndrome, which is also treated via hip arthroscopy.

A doctor is likely to recommend hip arthroscopy if a patient is experiencing hip pain and has not responded to conventional treatments. Popping or snapping sensations in the hip are often indicative of problems that can be treated with the procedure. A series of tests including physical examinations, x-rays and magnetic resonance scans (MRIs) are used to determine if a patient may benefit from hip arthroscopy surgery.

Complications from the hip arthroscopy procedure are uncommon, but they do exist. The most frequent complications include bleeding, infection and continued pain after surgery. Rarer side effects include nerve injury and non-fatal pulmonary embolism. Although the risk is low for most individuals, patients should always consult a doctor regarding the risks and benefits of the surgery before making a decision.

An X-ray may be taken to determine if a patient requires a hip arthroscopy.
An X-ray may be taken to determine if a patient requires a hip arthroscopy.

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