What is hip arthroscopy?
Arthroscopy is key-hole surgery of the hip joint using a pencil sized fibre-optic camera. Hip arthroscopy allows the surgeon to safely and accurately assess damage to the joint and to perform corrective procedures where required. Prior to the development of arthroscopic techniques, more extensive open procedures with larger incisions were required to access the hip joint. Hip arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure which allows rapid post-operative recovery and is useful in the treatment of a variety of hip disorders.
How can hip arthroscopy help?
Many patients with early damage to the hip joint experience symptoms such as pain or "pinching" which can be significantly improved with hip arthroscopy. Arthroscopy can also be used to correct disorders of the hip joint which if left untreated may ultimately lead to the development of osteoarthritis. Hip arthroscopy is useful for the accurate diagnosis of hip pathology and for the assessing suitability for other joint preservation techniques.
How is hip arthroscopy conducted?
Hip arthroscopy is usually performed under general anaesthetic (asleep) to ensure the muscles surrounding your joint are adequately relaxed to conduct the procedure. Once you are asleep, your foot will be placed into a stirrup and gentle traction is applied to separate the gap between the ball and socket of the hip joint. Between two and four incisions, each approximately 5mm in length, are made around the hip to place the camera and surgical instruments into the joint. Hip arthroscopy usually takes between 45 minutes and 2 hours, depending on the complexity of the operation.
What should I expect after the arthroscopy?
Most patients experience only mild discomfort when they wake up after a hip arthroscopy. Your hip will have an absorbent pad applied, which may become damp with the irrigation fluid used during the procedure. Most patients will go home the next day.
How long will it take to recover?
Unless you are told otherwise, you can bear as much weight on your leg as comfort allows immediately after the surgery. Crutches may be used for comfort and are usually required for no more than 2-3 days. You are able to drive a vehicle the next day as long as you are not taking stronger analgesics. People with desk jobs can return to work within the week, while people in more heavy manual employment may require 6 weeks. Sport can often be reintroduced early depending on the nature of the activity - often swimming and cycling are well tolerated. Returning to run training should usually be with held for 6 weeks where possible. It is important not to over exert too early after the procedure as this can increase the discomfort. Gradually reintroduce activities in a step wise manner - start with lower intensity "base" training for around 4-6 weeks. 80% of high level and elite athletes return to match fitness by 16 weeks. Some patients will continue to have mild discomfort 3-4 months after the procedure, depending on the degree of joint damage seen at arthroscopy.
Is physiotherapy required after the arthroscopy?
Regular physiotherapy is essential during the recovery period to assist in rapid recovery of joint function and muscular control. If required, your local physiotherapist can obtain a copy of our recommended rehabilitation protocols by contacting the office. If desired, hydrotherapy may be started immediately with waterproof dressings.
What are the risks?
Hip arthroscopy is a very safe procedure. The most common side effect of hip arthroscopy is temporary discomfort, slight bruising or numbness around the foot or groin related to the traction placed on the hip during the procedure. This is seen in about 5% of cases and usually lasts no more than a few days. Serious complications such as infection, bone fracture or permanent nerve injury are extremely rare. I will discuss the operation with you in detail prior to the procedure.
This information has been written by Dr Patrick Weinrauch for the purposes of patient education. The details provided are of general nature only and do not substitute for professional recommendations based an individual clinical assessment.