Hip arthroscopy is a surgical technique designed to diagnose and treat several kinds of hip issues. During the surgery, which is performed in an outpatient setting (meaning patients go home within a few hours of the procedure), the surgeon will insert a tiny camera, or arthroscope, into the arthroscopic portals, which are small incisions in the hip to perform the surgery. This allows them to see inside the hip and potentially make repairs without a large incision. The procedure has been around for more than four decades and is equal parts safe and successful.
A labrum tear is just one of the conditions that can be treated with this less invasive method of surgery. The labrum is a kind of gasket made of soft tissue that attaches to the bony acetabulum or hip socket. It creates a nice suction so the head of the hip ball joint will fit cleanly into the socket.
Problems can arise when the labrum tear creates the mechanical symptoms of pain, catching, and locking. The arthroscopic procedure cuts away the torn labrum and sutures it back to the bone.
There have been several instances of elite athletes experiencing labrum tears that required hip arthroscopy in the news. All returned to the field of play with great success:
One study of athletes and their recovery from hip arthroscopy found, “Female and male elite athletes were able to return to competitive sports activity at the same or higher level after hip arthroscopic surgery.”
Dr. Reuss describes the hip arthroscopy procedure as requiring the surgeon to make small incisions in the leg and insert a cannula and a capsular cutting knife to carefully do the work. The doctor also uses a radiofrequency probe to expose the bone and to cauterize blood vessels that are bleeding.
A 2019 study followed patients who were long-distance runners and underwent this type of hip preservation surgery. Of the 60 patients they followed, ages 14 to 62, 78% returned to some form of running post-surgery, including collegiate and professional activities.