Hip Arthroscopy

Learn everything about your treatment

  • Overview

    What Is Hip Arthroscopy Surgery?

    Hip Arthroscopy is a type of minimally-invasive hip surgery that can treat a range of hip issues including osteoarthritis and femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) and many others. Small tools are used to reshape the hip joint which may result in faster healing and recovery compared to traditional hip surgery.

    What Can Hip Arthroscopy Achieve?

    Arthroscopic hip surgery is a minimally invasive surgical technique, meaning it corrects the hip joint by reshaping it with small tools inserted into the hip through very small incisions (cuts). This often results in a shorter recovery period compared to traditional "open" hip surgery wherein large incisions are made to access the hip joint with traditional surgical tools. While less invasive than traditional hip surgery, hip arthroscopy is still surgery and will likely be suggested only if other treatments like pain medication and physiotherapy have not resolved or diagnosed the problem.

    By reshaping the hip joint, arthroscopic hip surgery aims to relieve pain and improve function and mobility in your hip joint that may have been caused by a number of conditions. This overview focuses on the treatment of chronic femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) and hip osteoarthritis with hip arthroscopy.

    While every patient experience is different, you may not need to stay in the hospital overnight after your surgery and may be able to return to your normal life more quickly than if you had traditional hip surgery.

    Hip arthroscopy has some other benefits over traditional hip surgery:

    • Shorter recovery time
    • Less scarring
    • More easily manageable pain after surgery
    • Less risk of infection and other complications

    To learn more about how hip arthroscopy works and what you can expect during your procedure, keep reading. If you have any questions, you may wish to write them down in order to discuss them with your surgeon or Medbelle Patient Care Adviser.

    Who Are BOA?

    BOA stands for The British Orthopaedic Association. It is the leading orthopaedic organisation in the UK. Surgeons who are members of the society regularly attend training to keep their skills and knowledge up to date. This means that they are amongst the most highly qualified and experienced orthopaedic surgeons in the UK. At Medbelle, we aim to recruit orthopaedic surgeons who are members of BOA. This ensures that we provide our patients with only the highest quality of care.

  • Procedure

    How Is Hip Arthroscopy Performed?

    Although the tools and techniques used may vary across surgeons, the general method for arthroscopy is the same.

    You will meet your surgeon before the operation so they can access your fitness for surgery, and talk through how the operation is performed. Hip arthroscopy takes around one and a half to two hours but can vary depending on how intensive your procedure is.

    Below is an overview of hip arthroscopy surgery:

    Signing the Consent Form

    On the day of your hip arthroscopy, you will meet with your surgeon to discuss the details of your surgery and ensure you are fully informed. Then you will need to sign a consent form before your surgeon can operate. This is a legal document showing you are aware of the risks and benefits of having hip arthroscopy and that you give your surgeon consent to perform this surgery on you. Your surgeon will make sure you feel fully informed before you sign.

    Anaesthesia

    After signing the consent form, the surgery can begin. First, the anaesthetist will administer a general anaesthetic or local anaesthetic with sedation so you are either asleep or cannot feel any pain during the surgery. Normally, hip arthroscopy is performed under general anaesthetic, which means you will be in a medically induced sleep when the operation takes place. Sometimes a local anaesthetic may also be used, which can help provide pain relief when you are recovering.

    Incisions

    Once the anaesthetic is working, you will be taken to the operating room. The surgical team will position you so that you are comfortable and that your hip can be easily accessed. Your hip will be cleaned and only sterile materials will be used. Incisions known as port sites will be made on the skin around your hip to allow the camera and fine instruments inside. The fluoroscope (a portable x-ray device) may also be used to help the surgeon see the bones of the joint more clearly.

    Correcting the Hip Joint

    For FAI

    When treating FAI with hip arthroscopy, the surgeon uses tools to reduce the size differences between the ball and socket to help them fit together correctly.

    For Osteoarthritis

    Osteoarthritis can cause abnormal pieces of bony tissue to grow within the joint called osteophytes. During hip arthroscopy, fine tools can be used to shave off these pieces of bone to prevent them from growing into the joint.

    Closing Incisions

    Once your surgeon is happy with the changes they’ve made, the incisions where the tools were inserted are closed with stitches. Local anaesthetic may be administered to your hip area to prevent pain for a few hours after surgery.

    Recovery

    Your anaesthetist will help you wake up once the surgery is complete. You will be transferred to the ward or recovery room where you will be monitored. Most patients spend at least one night in the hospital after their hip arthroscopy.

    Further Appointments and Physiotherapy

    The vast majority of surgeries correcting joints require physiotherapy and follow-up appointments after surgery to make sure the joint is healing well and strength returns to an optimal level. It is vital you follow any advice, recommendations, or stretching or exercise regimens given to you by your surgeon or physiotherapist. Everything they tell you and recommend you do is necessary in order for you to have the best results and healthiest hip possible after hip arthroscopy.

  • Candidates

    What Makes an Ideal Hip Arthroscopy Candidate?

    Any patient about to have hip arthroscopy should do their best to be as fit and healthy as they can before the procedure. Overall health can impact recovery after surgery as well as the health of the hip in the future.

    There are a number of things you can do before hip arthroscopy to ensure you’re in the best health possible:

    • If you are overweight, see your GP or surgeon about losing weight in a sustainable and healthy way
    • Try to keep active as much as you can and consult your GP before you start a new exercise programme or change your activity levels
    • Stop smoking at least 6 weeks before and after your surgery as nicotine slows healing
    • Reduce your alcohol intake

    Femoroacetabular Impingement (FIA) Candidates

    FAI can cause considerable pain and mobility issues because of abnormal contact between the bones of the hip joint. Patients with FIA may be eligible for hip arthroscopy surgery depending on the severity of their symptoms. Usually, patients with more mild symptoms are recommended for hip arthroscopy. Those with severe symptoms and greatly reduced range of movement may require traditional open hip surgery.

    Osteoarthritis Candidates

    Hip osteoarthritis is a condition where the cartilage (the flexible lining of the joint) has worn away. This can often be treated with hip arthroscopy surgery if other treatments and physiotherapy have not helped manage symptoms.

    Osteoarthritis can also lead to the development of bony spurs in the hip that interfere with the function of the hip joint. These spurs can hinder the normal function of the hip joint, causing pain and limiting the range of movement. Hip arthroscopy tools can be used to reduce or remove these bone spurs preventing them from affecting the movement of the hip joint. A partial or total hip replacement may be necessary to treat more severe osteoarthritis symptoms

    If you have any questions about hip arthroscopy, your surgeon will be happy to answer them for you to ensure you are informed and comfortable throughout your procedure.

  • Risks and Complications

    What Are the Main Hip Arthroscopy Risks and Complications?

    As with any surgery, hip arthroscopy has risks and complications associated with it. However, the risk of developing complications is much lower with a minimally-invasive surgery like hip arthroscopy in comparison to more invasive procedures. Your surgeon will be able to discuss these with you in more detail in person.

    General Surgical Complications

    Other complications, such as postoperative nausea, vomiting and pain can occur, as well as the risk of a reaction to the drugs or anaesthetic. Your anaesthetist will monitor you closely during the procedure to help reduce the risks of these complications occurring.

    Bleeding

    Bleeding is a potential risk during hip arthroscopy as with any operation. There are several important blood vessels around the hip joint that can be damaged during the procedure. The risk of damage to these blood vessels during arthroscopy is reduced in comparison to more invasive surgical techniques. However, if bleeding does occur, it can cause swelling and pain in the hip after surgery. In some severe instances, further treatment or surgery may be necessary to treat excessive bleeding.

    Swelling and Bruising

    You will likely experience some swelling bruising after hip arthroscopy. This is to be expected and can vary from person to person. Bruising should heal and disappear over time. Your surgeon may prescribe you pain medication to ease any discomfort you may experience as you recover.

    Nerve Damage

    There are a number of important nerves near the hip joint that can be damaged during surgery. Damage to nerves is usually due to the way the hip is moved during surgery. Nerve damage can lead to reduced sensation or abnormal feelings of pain. These symptoms can improve or reverse with time.

    Infection

    All operations are associated with a risk of infection, however, the small incisions used during arthroscopy help to reduce this risk. Your surgical team will do everything possible to reduce your chance of developing an infection. In the unlikely event you develop an infection after surgery, antibiotics or further surgery may be necessary to resolve it.

    The following symptoms are signs you may have an infection:

    • Feeling feverish with a temperature above 38° C
    • Increasing redness or swelling around the wound site in the first 2 days after surgery
    • Yellow, thick, or foul-smelling fluid coming from your incisions
    • Pain that is not relieved by your normal painkillers

    If you believe you have an infection, seek urgent medical advice and contact your surgeon.

    Blood Clots

    Blood clots are a potential risk of any surgery and are slightly more common with orthopaedic procedures because of the very limited mobility after surgery. Blood clots can develop in the legs after long periods of inactivity. These clots can move to the lungs, which can be both dangerous and difficult to treat. Your surgeon will give you advice and treatment to prevent blood clots after the operation, including how to keep mobile, the importance of wearing compression socks, and special injections to thin the blood.

  • Preparing for Your Treatment

    How Can I Prepare for My Hip Arthroscopy?

    Being well prepared is an important part of your recovery from hip arthroscopy surgery. There are many things you can do to help make the recovery period as smooth as possible.

    Some suggestions to help you prepare for surgery:

    Household Work

    Try to do any household work or chores before the day of your hip arthroscopy. Things like vacuuming, laundry, loading a dishwasher, making a bed, and other cleaning tasks may be very difficult or completely advised against by your surgeon in the first days or weeks after your procedure.

    Food Shopping

    Make sure you don’t have to worry about getting to and from the shops after your hip arthroscopy by doing a big shop and ensuring your cupboards are stocked.

    It is also helpful to prepare and freeze meals ahead of surgery so there’s no need to cook or rely on takeaway meals that tend to be high in sodium which can make swelling worse and prolong healing.

    Diet and Health

    A vital part of supporting your recovery is ensuring your diet and lifestyle are as healthy as possible before and after your hip arthroscopy.

    Aim to eat a balanced diet including plenty of lean protein, fresh fruits, and vegetables.

    Try to reduce your alcohol intake to a minimum during the post-operative recovery time. Your surgeon may recommend you do not drink alcohol at all as alcohol consumption can slow healing.

    Smoking and Nicotine Use

    If you smoke or use any nicotine products like e-cigarettes or nicotine gum, it is very important that you stop entirely for 6 weeks before and after the operation. Nicotine constricts blood flow so can significantly impair and slow your recovery.

    Driving

    You may not be able to drive for around 6 weeks after your hip arthroscopy.

    It is important to know the effects of the anaesthetic can affect your judgement and coordination up to 24 hours after your hip arthroscopy. This makes it incredibly unsafe for you to drive after your surgery. Speak to family, friends, or your Medbelle Patient Care Adviser to arrange transportation to get home after your surgery.

    Your surgeon will be able to give you more details on when it is safe to drive after your operation.

    Weight and BMI

    As well as having many health benefits, a healthy, sustainable weight for your body can prevent additional pressure on joints and promote a smooth recovery after hip arthroscopy.

    Your surgeon may recommend you lose a certain amount of weight before having the operation. This is to help reduce the risks and complications associated with surgery that may be higher for larger individuals. Losing weight will also make the surgery easier for your surgeon to complete.

    If you are struggling to lose weight in time for the operation, your surgeon may be able to refer you to a specialist dietician or weight loss adviser for support.

  • Aftercare

    What Can I Expect After Hip Arthroscopy?

    Knowing what to expect after your hip arthroscopy can help you feel more comfortable and at ease in the lead up to your operation. Your surgeon will discuss the aftercare process with you during your consultation. They will provide you with specific information and recommendations on how best to care for yourself as you recover.

    Your surgeon will advise you on subjects such as:

    • When you can go back to work
    • How long you must wait before resuming exercise
    • How you should wash and care for your wounds
    • When and how to start physiotherapy

    A key element of your hip arthroscopy aftercare is follow up appointments which your team will arrange for you. During these appointments, they will check your wounds to see how they are healing, assess your hip’s function, and check to see if you are in any pain. They will also address any complications and make an assessment of the results of the procedure at each point in your recovery.

    Directly After Surgery

    After surgery, you will have dressings around your hip. These dressings will normally stay in place for up to a week before they are removed.

    Your hip may also feel tender, and moving around will be difficult. Your surgeon or the nurses in the recovery room will offer you painkillers which you can take if you need to manage the discomfort.

    The First 24 Hours

    After a general anaesthetic, it is normal to feel tired and groggy. Once you are feeling more awake, your surgeon will check on you. You may also be visited by a physiotherapist. You will be encouraged to move and walk around. Providing all is well, most people are able to go home the same day as their hip arthroscopy. You may be given crutches or a walker to use for a short period of time to make walking and moving around more comfortable.

    Dressing and Stitches

    You may need to keep your wound covered initially. If your surgeon has used staples or stitches then the wound should be kept covered until these are removed. If your wounds were closed in another way, then they may only need to be covered for the first few days. You will only be able to shower or bathe once your surgeon says it is safe for you to do so. Your surgeon will also tell you when they will be able to remove your stitches.

    If you notice anything leaking from the wound, you should inform your surgeon straight away.

    Physiotherapy

    The physiotherapist may come and see before you leave hospital or you may be given an appointment to meet them at a later date. You will likely need several sessions as part of your aftercare plan. You must continue to do the exercises shown to you by your physiotherapist as many times per week or day as they assign to you. Ideally, you will find that your hip improves slowly over time as you continue these exercises. As soon as you are able, you may be advised to start walking regularly every day to further your healing.

    Time Away from Work

    Hip arthroscopy patients generally take between 1 and 3 weeks off work. However, the time you need away from work depends on factors relating to your health. You may need longer if your job is more active or if you do not feel comfortable returning to work. You should, therefore, listen to the exact time frames that your surgeon provides you with.

    Returning to Exercise and Sport

    You should avoid any strenuous activity and contact sports for at least 6 weeks after your hip arthroscopy. However, you should be fine to resume some light physical activity after 1 to 2 weeks depending on the progress of your recovery. Your surgeon and physiotherapist will give you a tailor-made schedule for returning to exercise after your procedure.

  • Final Results

    Every patient heals differently, which means it’s difficult to estimate when you will see the final results of your hip arthroscopy. Broadly, most hip arthroscopy patients are able to resume all their usual activities after around 3 months. Furthermore, many people see reduced hip pain and improved movement within the first two to three weeks after surgery.

    After hip arthroscopy, it is normal to feel some pain as a result of the operation. This is often easily managed with over-the-counter medication and is temporary. Your physiotherapy programme will start soon after your procedure which will help you track your improvement. It may take several months to return to strenuous physical activities or contact sports.

    It is vital that you follow your surgeon’s specific advice regarding your hip arthroscopy healing to ensure that you get the best results possible and reduce the risk of complications.

  • Hip Arthroscopy FAQs

    Do I need a GP referral to have hip arthroscopy?

    A referral from your GP is not necessarily needed before meeting with a private surgeon for arthroscopic hip surgery. It is often advisable to discuss your symptoms with your GP before a consultation to ensure that you see the right specialist to resolve your symptoms.

    Once you have met your surgeon, they may ask for permission to speak to your GP about your medical history. This allows them to be fully informed about any existing medical conditions and your overall health ahead of surgery.

    If you are planning to use your medical insurance to pay for your arthroscopy hip surgery, you should check with your insurance provider to see if a GP referral is required.

    When can I return to my normal activities after arthroscopic hip surgery?

    Every surgeon has their own advice regarding recovery for hip arthroscopy. Generally, it is advisable to take at least two weeks off work after an arthroscopic hip surgery. The first week is usually solely dedicated to your recovery and rest.

    The second week you may be able to return to some home-based work. After this time you may feel ready to gradually return to work, proving it is both safe to do so and that it is recommended by your surgeon.

    Before returning to exercise, you should have a discussion with your surgeon or physiotherapist.

    Recommendations vary between individuals, but some patients can return to non-weight bearing exercises like swimming from around two weeks.

    Within six to eight weeks your hip should function as required for day-to-day life.

    It may take up to three months to return to high-impact activities like running or team sports. Again, activity should be guided by your surgeon and exercise intensity should be gradually increased to prevent injury. Doing too much too soon may irritate your hip and extend your healing process.

    Your surgeon will advise you on when you can return to driving. Your ability to drive safely is dependent on you being able to fully bear weight, walk confidently without crutches, get in and out of a car unaided, and be able to perform an emergency stop.

    Will I need any physiotherapy after my hip arthroscopy surgery?

    Physiotherapy is an important part of recovering after hip arthroscopy. Your surgeon may work regularly with a particular physiotherapy team or be able to refer you to a recommended provider. A physiotherapist will help give you special movements and exercises to strengthen the muscles and tissues around the hip joint and guide you with your recovery. Ensuring adequate amounts of movement is important in preventing complications, such as blood clots and stiffness of the joint after the operation.

    Are there alternatives to hip arthroscopy?

    In most cases, your surgeon and GP will first advise non-surgical measures to help manage your hip discomfort. Sometimes these are insufficient and surgery is needed to treat your symptoms or prevent further complications from occurring. Both FAI and osteoarthritis can be treated by several different procedures depending on the severity of disease and your symptoms.

    Please refer to the FAI and hip osteoarthritis pages for more information about these conditions and the various treatment options.