Hip arthroscopy (keyhole surgery)

What is hip arthroscopy?

Hip arthroscopy is a surgical procedure that allows your surgeon to see inside your hip using a camera inserted through small cuts in the skin.

It’s used to diagnose and treat a range of problems that are causing hip pain. This procedure is sometimes referred to as keyhole surgery.

How is a hip arthroscopy performed?

Hip arthroscopy is performed under a general anaesthetic. Your leg is strapped into a traction table to give distraction of the hip joint and to pull the joint open. This allows the passage of the arthroscope (a small rigid telescope with a digital camera on the end) into the space between the ball (femoral head) and socket (acetabulum) of the joint. Small probes and other specialised instruments can be inserted into the hip joint to allow a wide variety of different surgical procedures to be performed.

Your surgeon will usually make about two to four small cuts around the joint. A small telescope will be placed through one of the cuts so they can examine the joint. Surgical instruments will be placed through the other cuts if problems with the joint need treating. (see figure 1).

What are the benefits of hip arthroscopy?

The main benefit of hip arthroscopy surgery is to confirm exactly what the problem is and, in many cases, to treat the problem at the same time. Hip arthroscopy is also less invasive than traditional hip replacement surgery and often involves less scarring and a faster recovery.

Are there any alternatives to hip arthroscopy?

If you’re experiencing pain with your hip joint, the problem can often be diagnosed using CT and MRI scans. However, a hip arthroscopy may then be needed to treat the problem.

What complications can happen?

Any surgery poses a risk or complications. These can include:

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection in the surgical wound
  • Unsightly scarring

Complications of a hip arthroscopy can include:

  • Bleeding into the joint
  • Infection in the joint
  • Severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of the arm and hand (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome)
  • Damage to nerves
  • Damage to tendons

A risk of complication is present with any type of surgery so it is important to discuss the surgery with your consultant and ensure that you are comfortable with both the level of risk and potential benefit.

How long will it take to recover?

Following hip arthroscopy, you’ll spend a night in hospital and can usually go home the next day.

You will most likely have to use crutches for a few weeks following surgery. However, it can take 6-9 months to make a full recovery.

To help aid your recovery, you should do any exercises your physiotherapist has given you.

Regular exercise can also help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, you should ask a member of your healthcare team for advice.

Most people who have treatment see a major improvement, but it’s important to remember that it can take time for pain to improve and movement to increase.

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