By: Brad Homan, D.O.
Each year more than seven million people visit their doctor with concerns related to hip pain. For many, the pain is so severe that simple things like climbing stairs or bending to tie their shoes are difficult. Some may even have back or groin pain and not realize this pain is actually the result of a hip condition.
Many patients find pain relief through anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, or the right kind of exercise. But others, only surgical intervention will help.
Thanks to recent medical advances, patients with ongoing hip pain who don’t require a hip replacement may now be treated with minimally invasive surgery. The procedure, called hip arthroscopy, allows surgeons to diagnose and repair most injuries through tiny incisions in the hip instead of larger incisions like those needed for replacements. This less invasive approach usually means less pain and a quicker recovery for the patient.
While a hip replacement may be needed if there is severe hip trauma or damage from arthritis in the joint, hip arthroscopy is most often used to treat a specific and less severe condition that may be causing pain. This makes it beneficial for younger, more active people.
Historically, weekend warriors in the 30-50 age range with chronic hip pain were more or less told to live through their pain until they reached an age when a hip replacement was feasible. Physicians used this approach because a practical treatment option simply wasn’t available. In some cases doctors couldn’t even determine the cause of a patient’s pain because the injury wasn’t detectable on an x-ray.
As diagnostic techniques and instruments for the hip have improved, more and more doctors are now using hip arthroscopy to diagnose and treat injuries.
Similar to knee and shoulder arthroscopy, which have been performed for many years, hip arthroscopy includes the use of a narrow scope and specialized instruments. The scope is attached to a camera and is inserted into the joint through a small incision, allowing the surgeon to see the injury and the area surrounding it. The hand instruments are inserted through another incision and are used to remove or repair the damaged tissue. Because the shole procedure is performed through keyhole-size incisions, the patient can return home that same day.
These days, people are staying active until much later in their lives, so it’s important to get them back on their feet and doing what they love quickly and with the smallest amount of pain possible. In many cases, hip arthroscopy does this and more, because it’s treating an injury and at the same time diminishing the risk of arthritis and perhaps delaying the need for a hip replacement.