What is it?
Hip arthroscopy is an innovative procedure that allows access to the hip joint using minimally invasive surgical techniques. It has been carried out episodically for some years, but in its current form has only been practiced over the last 5 to 10 years. It was pioneered by surgeons in the UK, Australia and the US and since then the indications have rapidly expanded. Initially it was used to remove loose bodies, take tissue samples and to investigate joint pain. However, since the concept of impingement has become clearer, it has been used to reshape both the pelvic cup (acetabular) rim and the femoral head/neck.
Prior to surgery, all patients undergo specific x-rays of the hip as well as more complex scans such as CT and Magnetic Resonance Arthrography (MRA). These scans are used to confirm the soft-tissue damage and to accurately map out the bony deformity. This is very important when planning the surgery.
Each patient undergoes a general anaesthetic and the procedure takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours to carry out. The patient is on their side and traction is placed on the leg. This distracts the hip and allows access to the joint. Using a combination of hollow needles and tubes, a camera is inserted into the joint.
Once there both the cartilaginous labrum and the joint surface cartilage are assessed. If the labrum is torn, it is repaired if possible as there is good evidence in the orthopaedic literature that this has a significant effect on long-term outcome. Occasionally the quality of the torn labrum is too poor for repair so it is debrided. If there is a defect in the joint surface cartilage then it is either debrided back or treated with specialised techniques such as micro-fracture or stem cell therapies.
Once the rest of the joint is inspected, the traction is released and access is made to the outer part of the hip joint. Once there, the abnormal bump is identified and removed using an arthroscopic shaver until it no longer catches.
Following the surgery, the patient undergoes a specialist hip rehabilitation program. This works on restoring range of movement and core stability. The patient initially remains partial weight bearing for between one and four weeks, depending on the surgery carried out, patients either go home on the day of surgery or the following day and are followed up by a dedicated therapist. They are reviewed in out-patients at six weeks and six months where their progress is carefully monitored.
Patient recovery can vary significantly following the operation. Most will return to normal day to day activities by six weeks, however, functional activity will continue to improve between six and nine months following the surgery. Occasionally, a small group of patients will remain uncomfortable following surgery and in these patients, a steroid injection into the hip joint can be very useful.
Compared to open surgery, the risks of hip arthroscopy are far less.There is a small risk of infection, blood clots, temporary nerve injury and groin bruising. Patients are routinely given antibiotics and a blood thinning drug to minimise some of these risks.
The outcome of hip arthroscopy is good, so long as the appropriate procedure is carried out. Professor Fehily has pioneered the use of 3D CT scans to accurately map out each patients bony deformity which then allows bespoke surgery, tailored to each individual patient. All patients undergo functional scoring both pre and post surgery and are then followed up long-term. A prospective database is kept of all patients and this has allowed us to identify who does and does not benefit from this surgery. On the whole, the majority of patients are significantly better following this procedure and this benefit is maintained into the long-term.
Professor Fehily carries out over 160 of these procedures per year and over 1300 in total. He is one of the highest volume surgeons for this procedure in the UK. He is an Honorary Professor at Salford University on soft-tissue hip problems, teaches physicians and physiotherapists about hip arthroscopy and is a regular member of faculty on both national and international courses teaching these advanced techniques to orthopaedic surgeons.