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Hip Arthroscopy

Hip arthroscopy, sometimes called a “hip scope,” is a minimally invasive hip surgery in which an orthopedic surgeon uses an arthroscope to examine or treat the inside of the hip joint. The arthroscope is inserted into the body through a small incision (cut). A camera on the scope then provides a view of the hip joint on a display monitor. This exploratory surgery allows the hip surgeon to diagnose the cause of hip pain or other problems with the joint. Some hip conditions may also be treated arthroscopically. To perform arthroscopic hip surgery in such cases, the surgeon makes additional small incisions (usually one or two) to create access points for arthroscopic needles, scalpels or other special surgical tools.

Arthroscopy of the hip joint was refined in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Since then, the development of advanced in arthroscopic surgical equipment has allowed orthopedic surgeons to treat conditions that were previously untreatable or which required more invasive, open procedures.
(Read more on the history of hip arthroscopy.)

Step-by-step animation of a hip arthroscopy

Advantages of hip arthroscopy

A hip scope has several advantages over traditional open hip surgery, including:

  • Minimizing hip pain and scarring
  • Decreasing recovery time
  • Postponing hip arthritis by treating its cause in the early stages
  • Delaying or eliminating the need for a hip replacement by preemptively treating of conditions that cause osteoarthritis of the hip

Conditions treated with hip arthroscopy

The key conditions and injuries that can be fixed with arthroscopic hip surgery are:

  • Hip impingement (femoroacetabular impingement), which limits range of motion and is a major cause of osteoarthritis
  • Labral tears, where a specialized cartilage called the labrum, which lines the hip socket becomes torn
  • Removal of loose fragments of cartilage inside the joint, which are usually caused by an injury, such as a torn labrum

Hip arthroscopy at HSS

Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) has led the way in developing new techniques for minimally invasive surgery. By using small incisions, customized instruments, and innovative imaging techniques, we can perform many procedures with less pain and blood loss, and minimal scarring. The result is a rapid recovery, high patient satisfaction, and the best possible outcome. Hip arthroscopy is one such surgical method.

Because HSS uses high-resolution MRI scanning technology, a hip arthroscopy is not always required to make a diagnosis. High-resolution scans may reveal that an injury or condition can be treated non-surgically (such as with physical therapy). For this reason, at HSS, arthroscopic surgery is often performed only when reparative surgery is needed.

Arthroscopic hip surgery is usually conducted on an outpatient basis, where the patient returns home on the same day as the surgery. At HSS, more than 90% of hip arthroscopy procedures are performed under regional anesthesia, rather than general anesthesia. This lowers risks and decreases the time between surgery and a patient’s discharge from the hospital.

Hip arthroscopy patients must usually use crutches for one or two weeks after surgery and do six weeks of physical therapy. It may be three to six months before they experience no pain after physical activity. For more information on hip arthroscopy, including guidance on ways to expedite the recovery and healing process, read the articles listed below.

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