Hip arthroscopy is a procedure that helps diagnose and treat problems in your hip joint.
The procedure involves a surgeon making small incisions that let them see inside your hip joint with a small camera and correct some conditions of the hip.
The goal of hip arthroscopy is to diagnose and treat your hip pain or mobility issues. Hip arthroscopy gives your surgeon a direct and detailed view of the structures in your hip joint.
Other goals include:
- preventing or delaying more invasive surgeries
- delaying the need for a total joint replacement
- shortening recovery time
- reducing post-procedure pain
- possibly slowing degenerative changes, such as arthritis
You may need hip arthroscopy if you have hip pain or movement problems that haven’t improved with other treatments and if you have conditions such as:
Overall, the rate of problems during a hip arthroscopy is low: between 1.4% and 1.6%.
Possible complications include:
- nerve damage
- cartilage damage
- fluid leaks
- blood clots
- hip instability
- tissue damage or death
- fractures of the femoral head
You are more likely to develop complications after a hip arthroscopy if you are over age 40 and have one or more of these conditions:
- significant cartilage damage
- advanced stages of bone loss or damage
- significant narrowing of the joint space
- lesions or cysts on the cartilage at the femoral head
The primary benefits of hip arthroscopy are pain relief and improved function or mobility. The procedure also allows you to return to activities much sooner than with open surgeries.
How you prepare for your hip arthroscopy may depend on whether you will have surgical treatment or repair during your procedure.
These steps can help you prepare:
- Follow all pre-op instructions, including when to stop eating and drinking.
- Plan for help at home following surgery. Ask a friend or relative to stay with you for a few days.
- Review your treatment and recovery plan.
- Ask the surgeon any questions you have. It may help to write down your questions and bring the list with you to your appointment to make sure all your questions are answered.
- Purchase or prepare items you may need, such as:
- crutches or walker
- leg lifter
- elevated toilet seat
- shower chair
- backpack (to carry items while on crutches)
- slip-on shoes
- loose fitting clothing
Most hip arthroscopies are performed under general anesthesia, so you won’t be awake. Sometimes a surgeon may choose spinal or epidural medications that numb you from the waist down. If this is the best option for you, your surgical team will offer medication to help you relax during the procedure.
Once you are under anesthesia, your surgical team will position your body for surgery. This usually involves traction: Your leg will be placed in a device that moves it away from the hip joint.
The surgeon will make a small incision about the size of a buttonhole in the area of the hip. A small camera and surgical tools can be inserted through this hole.
Images of your hip are displayed on a monitor in the operating room. If your surgeon decides that treatments are needed and safe to perform, they can do these using tools inserted along with the camera.
Common procedures done during arthroscopic hip surgery include:
- smoothing torn cartilage
- repairing or reconstructing the labrum
- trimming bone spurs
- removing inflamed tissues or other debris
When the treatment is complete, the surgeon removes the tools and closes the surgical opening with stitches or tape. They will place an absorbent dressing over the cut.
The surgeon will give you specific instructions on wound care, how to take care of the dressing, and when to return for suture removal. You will also go home with written instructions.
The exact length of time for the procedure will depend on the specific reason you are having hip arthroscopy and what treatments your surgeon decides to perform.
After your hip arthroscopy, you will go to a recovery area for monitoring while you wake up from anesthesia. Most people who have the procedure remain in recovery for 1 to 2 hours, and are then discharged home the same day.
The process of recovering from your hip arthroscopy will depend on what you have done during your procedure. Your recovery may include:
Most people feel some pain after surgery, even with minimally invasive procedures like hip arthroscopy. Short-acting pain medications, like opioids, may be used for a brief period after your surgery.
Doctors may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) instead of opioids in certain cases. NSAIDs may also help reduce swelling.
One of the major benefits of an arthroscopic procedure is how fast you can return to your presurgical activity level. Your surgeon will give specific directions on when and how to begin weight-bearing activities after your surgery. However, most people use crutches or other support for 1 to 2 months.
Your surgeon may also refer you to a rehabilitation or physical therapy program. These programs can help you recover and return to activities and mobility.
Can I drive home after hip arthroscopy?
No, you will still need someone to drive you home and ideally stay with you for at least the first day after the procedure.
Will I be asleep during the surgery?
Most likely. General anesthesia is the most common choice for hip arthroscopy, but local anesthetics are sometimes used. Your surgeon and anesthesiologist will discuss anesthesia with you before surgery.
Will hip arthroscopy cure my condition?
Maybe. The improvement you see will depend on the type and severity of the specific condition you are being treated for.
Hip arthroscopy lets a doctor get a detailed look inside your hip joint and, if possible, provide some treatments.
The full value of the procedure isn’t likely to be obvious until you are fully recovered from the surgery.