Hip arthroscopy, or a hip scope, is a minimally invasive procedure. The use of an arthroscope means that the procedure is done using 3 – 4 small incisions (keyhole sized) rather than a more invasive, open surgery that would require a much larger incision. These small incisions are used to insert surgical instruments into the joint.
An arthroscope is a long, thin camera that allows your surgeon to view the inside of your joint. Your surgeon will also use a variety of shavers that allow your surgeon to cut away (debride) the frayed cartilage or labrum that is causing you pain. The shaver is also used to shave away the bump(s) of bone that is responsible for the cartilage or labral damage.
In addition to removing frayed tissue and loose bodies within the joint, your surgeon may drill holes into patches of bare bone where your cartilage has been lost. This technique, called microfracture, promotes the formation of fibrocartilage where it has been lost.
Aiding other advances in arthroscope technology, the flow of saline through your joint during the procedure provides your surgeon with excellent visualization. Your surgeon is also aided by fluoroscopy, a portable X-ray instrument that is used during the surgery to ensure that the instruments and arthroscope are inserted properly.
Is Hip Arthroscopy Right for You?
Your doctor will determine whether hip arthroscopy will be beneficial for you based on your physical and diagnostic exams. Patients who respond best to hip arthroscopy are active individuals with hip pain, who have an opportunity to preserve the amount of cartilage they still have. Patients who have already suffered significant cartilage loss in the joint may be better suited with a hip replacement.
Studies have shown that 85 – 90% of hip arthroscopy patients return to sports and resume physical activities at the level they were before their onset of hip pain and impingement. The majority of patients improve significantly, but it is not yet clear to what extent the procedure changes the course of arthritis. If you have underlying skeletal deformities or a degenerative condition, you may not experience as much relief from a hip arthroscopy as a patient with simple impingement.
Following your procedure, you will be given crutches to use for the first 2 weeks, occasionally 6 – 8 weeks, following your surgery to minimize weight-bearing. You will need to schedule a postoperative appointment about two weeks after your surgery. Typically, you will begin a physical therapy regimen to help improve strength and flexibility in your hip 1 – 2 days after surgery.
After 12 weeks of physical therapy, many patients can resume normal activities, but it may take 4 – 6 months for you to experience no soreness or pain following physical activity. As no two patients are the same, regular postoperative appointments with your surgeon are necessary to formulate the best possible recovery plan, individualized to your specific needs.