By Matthew A. Dobzyniak, MD
Hip pain can severely impact a person’s quality of life. Often, range of motion can be limited and the person can’t do the things they want to do. That’s when it’s time to visit a physician. The doctor will perform a full exam with x-ray to assess the patient’s condition, and will order an MRI if the x-ray doesn’t give the whole story. Then, the doctor may suggest a procedure called arthroscopic hip surgery. Hip arthroscopy is a surgical procedure that allows the physician to correct certain hip problems while providing specific benefits to certain candidates. Unlike traditional hip surgery, hip arthroscopy is minimally invasive and has a shorter recovery time.
What is Hip Arthroscopy?
The surgery, performed under general anesthesia, involves inserting a small camera inside a joint that transmits images to a monitor. The incision required is smaller than a standard button, and it allows the surgeon to get a look at the entirety of the joint, something that isn’t necessarily true in open or traditional hip surgery. If the surgeon needs to correct anything in the hip, he or she will make another small incision to insert small instruments to perform the work. Arthroscopic hip surgery is generally recommended for active people who are experiencing hip pain with physical activity.
Who is a Candidate for Hip Arthroscopy?
Candidates for hip arthroscopy range in age from the late teens to people in their early 50’s and 60’s. Most often, a person who complains about pain in the front of the hip, near the groin, has FAI (femoroacetabular impingement), a labral tear that may or may not be related to the FAI, hip dysplasia, loose bodies in the hip area or another condition that causes tendons to rub across the hip joint. These conditions, and a few others, are easily corrected with an arthroscopic hip procedure. Let’s take a look at some of these hip conditions.
Femoroacetabular impingement is a condition that develops during growth. In this situation, the hip joint does not fit together properly and the resulting bone spurs cause damage to the surrounding tissue. This can result in a labral tear, which can be quite painful.
The labrum is the ring of cartilage on the outside rim of the hip joint that holds the ball of the hip firmly inside the joint. This connective tissue can tear or detach from the bone, causing restricted motion and discomfort.
This structural hip condition is characterized by a hip socket that is too shallow, increasing the chance of labral tear.
Because any trauma or abnormality to the hip can cause a labral tear, it is the number one reason for hip arthroscopy. The specific advantages to this type of hip surgery are many, but one of the biggest advantages is the much quicker recovery process.
Recovering from Hip Arthroscopy
Because the procedure is minimally invasive, recovery time is quick. Recovery time depends on the type of hip arthroscopy performed. Exploratory hip arthroscopy has a shorter recovery time than surgery meant to repair a problem. Let’s compare the recovery process of both types of procedures.
In this type of surgery, torn pieces or foreign bodies are removed from the hip. The patient is usually able to place their full weight on the hip after two or three days. A patient with a desk job can usually return to work within that amount of time, but someone with a more physically laborious job will have to wait three to four weeks. Patients who receive this type of surgery start physical therapy right away.
Because the surgeon is repairing soft tissue, the recovery time is longer in this type of hip arthroscopy. The patient will spend about six weeks on crutches with limited weight bearing. Someone with a desk job can return to work in a week and a half or so, but someone with a job that keeps them on their feet will have to stay out longer. Around the six-week point, the patient will enter physical therapy and will be back to reasonable activity after about ten weeks. In three months, the patient will be 90% healed and completely healed within six months.
If you’re concerned about your hip pain, or would like more information about hip arthroscopy surgeries, schedule an appointment today.