What is hip arthroscopy?

Hip arthroscopy is a surgical procedure that allows your surgeon to ‘see inside’ the hip joint without making a large incision.

It is often used to diagnose and treat a range of hip problems. Your surgeon will make a small incision and insert a special instrument (arthroscope) with a camera attached into the hip joint. As smaller incisions are used in arthroscopy (as compared to traditional ‘open’ surgery), there is often less pain, less joint stiffness, and a shorter recovery time.

 

Causes and needs for surgery

While hip arthroscopy is primarily a diagnosis tool, it has a range of other applications, including:

Articular cartilage damage treatment – any damaged cartilage is removed and the underlying bone is exposed to encourage new cartilage to form. This process can help stabilise existing cartilage damage and may help to delay or prevent arthritis.

  • Synovitis treatment – the inflamed tissue lining the hip joint cavity is removed.
  • Loose body removal – any bone, loose tissue or cartilage is removed, preventing further damage to the hip.
  • Biopsy – tissue is taken during the arthroscopy to assist in identifying and diagnosing conditions.

The surgery

The surgeon will create a small incision at your hip for the arthroscope (a small tool with a camera).

Using the camera, they will be able to see any damage to the hip. The surgeon can then assess whether further action is needed during the surgical session and which tools should be used. The length of the surgery depends on whether the surgeon determines that other procedures are required. The possibility of other procedures will be discussed with you prior to surgery.

At the end of the operation, the incisions are closed with sutures and dressed.

Complications and risks

Complications are very rare and uncommon. It is common post-surgery to experience slight numbness in the hip region – it will pass over time but should be monitored.

It is also normal to experience swelling and some discomfort in the buttock and thigh areas. This will also pass over time. It is important post-surgery to refrain from high impact sports and activities to reduce the risk of dislocation or fracture. Other potential risks post-surgery are the risk of infection, bleeding and clots in the legs or lungs.

Recovery

Before the operation, an exercise program will have been organised to assist you in achieving the best results post-surgery.

Movement and weight bearing is allowed immediately after the surgery and crutches will be used to assist with support. The crutches are generally no longer needed after one week, with the possible return to low impact work generally around this time as well. After the four-week mark, low impact activities are also possible, such as swimming.

It will take three months to fully recover from hip arthroscopy, with ongoing improvements taking up to a year.