Hip Arthroscopy – A Minimally Invasive Alternative to Open Surgery
Few of us ever stop to consider how much we depend on our hip joints for the many daily activities we perform unless they fail us. Until relatively recently and barring injuries, most people could expect no problems with these joints during the first six to eight decades of life. However, today, many people in their ’50s and younger are experiencing pain and swelling in this crucially important joint. Invariably, some of these will need to undergo a procedure known as hip arthroscopy.
Like the telescope and microscope, the arthroscope is a viewing device. The prefix is taken from the Greek words “arthron”, meaning joint and “skopion”, meaning to look at or examine, which indicates the instrument’s role in viewing the structures within a joint. The earliest attempt to create such devices dates back to 1806 and the so-called “Lichtleiter”, invented by Philipp Bozzini.
While first described in the late ’50s, acetabular labral tears continued to be identified and repaired using open surgical procedures. The arthroscope was still used quite rarely and only as a diagnostic tool to add to the findings provided by an X-ray examination. However, following the first description of an acetabular labral tear examined arthroscopically, the previously conservative attitude among orthopaedic surgeons began to change. With the widespread adoption of this technology, hip arthroscopy soon evolved from its primarily diagnostic role into a minimally invasive alternative to the more traumatic option of open joint surgery.
Labral tears were among the first common conditions to be repaired in this fashion. Today, osteoarthritis, bursitis, synovitis, hip dysplasia, and femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) can all be diagnosed and treated arthroscopically. The procedure limits the risk of infection and severe bleeding while also requiring less post-operative recovery time. Springbok fans might recall that scrum-half Faf de Klerk was back on the field after only four months following hip arthroscopy to repair a torn flexor. That said, given the sheer physicality of the game, his latest hip injury is hardly surprising and he will probably take somewhat longer to recover from the second surgery.
In practice, the success of these procedures depends as much on the patient as it does on the surgeon. The techniques are well established, and the surgeons are specially trained to perform them. Patients undergoing hip arthroscopy at the Life Wilgers Hospital in Pretoria will receive all the post-operative care and advice essential to ensure a safe and successful recovery.