Hip arthroscopy

Understanding hip arthroscopy

Our hip joints play an important role in our ability to move, walk and run effectively. When the hip is functioning properly, movement is easy and free of pain.

Where there is a problem affecting the joint, caused by disease, illness or trauma, range of motion in the hip can be restricted and normal movements may cause pain in the joint.

Should you be experiencing recurrent pain, discomfort, swelling or stiffness in your hip joint, a specialist hip doctor (known as an orthopaedic consultant) may recommend a hip arthroscopy to help investigate the cause of the problem if a diagnosis is not clear and to help resolve your discomfort.  

What is hip arthroscopy?

Arthroscopy is a type of keyhole surgery used to examine, diagnose and sometimes treat problems affecting a joint.

For hip arthroscopy, a small cut a few millimetres in size is made in the skin near the hip joint. A small metal tube (called an arthroscope) is inserted into the hip joint through this cut.

The arthroscope contains a light source and a small camera or lens, giving the surgeon a clear view of the inside of the hip joint.

A hip arthroscopy is a straightforward procedure, normally taking anywhere between 30-90 minutes. It is usually carried out as a day case procedure, meaning you will be able to go home the same day as the arthroscopy.

Before your arthroscopy, everything will be explained to you thoroughly by the team at St Joseph’s Hip Clinic. A hip arthroscopy is normally carried out under general anaesthetic, meaning you will not be conscious during the surgery.

An anaesthetist will talk with you about the anaesthetic they will be using for the procedure, and if you have any queries at any time, they will be happy to help.

Once you have been given the general anaesthetic, the skin around your hip will be thoroughly cleaned using an antibacterial fluid to reduce the risk of infection.

The surgeon will make a small incision near the joint and insert the arthroscope through this cut into the hip joint. Sometimes sterile fluid may be injected into the hip joint to help visualise the joint more clearly.

Using the arthroscope, the surgeon is able to examine the inside of the hip joint to see if there is any damage to the soft tissues, cartilage or bones that make up the joint.

Should any damaged tissue or loose fragments be present inside the joint, the surgeon can make additional small incisions and insert very small surgical instruments through these cuts, in order to remove or repair the damage.

They will then remove the arthroscope from the joint and close the cuts using stitches or special surgical tape, covering the area with a sterile dressing to ensure it remains free of infection.

Hip arthroscopy is a much less invasive surgical procedure than traditional (“open”) surgery. Using only small cuts in the skin and small surgical instruments, the cause of your hip pain or discomfort can be seen and treated quickly and effectively. Advantages of this type of surgery include:

  • reduced recovery time,
  • lower risk of infection,
  • less pain following the surgery,
  • less time spent in hospital.

Complications and Risks

Hip arthroscopy is generally considered to be a safe procedure, although all surgical procedures carry risks and the potential for complications. For hip arthroscopy, these include:

  • Infection in the hip joint,
  • Bleeding inside the hip joint,
  • Damage to the nerves near the hip joint,
  • Formation of a blood clot (known as a ‘deep vein thrombosis’ or ‘DVT’).

The above risks are intended as guidelines only and are not exhaustive. We always recommend that you talk with your consultant about potential risks and complications before you decide to have any surgery.

The consultant-led orthopaedic Hip Clinic at St Joseph’s has vast experience in carrying out hip arthroscopy.

Should you require help for ongoing pain, stiffness or swelling in your hip joint, please contact us to arrange a consultation with one of our hip specialists. They will work with you to help diagnose and effectively treat the cause of your hip problem.