Many popular sports and activities – from tennis to bicycling to yoga – can lead to hip pain, even in young adults. Sometimes a painful hip is an indicator of more than exertion. Relatively common variations in hip anatomy, including excess bone growth and malformed sockets, can lead to premature wear and tear of the joint. Continued physical activity with these compromised joints can grow into more serious problems, including injuries to cartilage and other soft tissues, and eventually arthritis.
The good news is advanced surgical therapies available today can reduce pain and correct hip function before the joint suffers permanent damage. When hip preservation surgery is used to correct abnormalities of the bone and hip socket, patients can enjoy a lifetime of renewed function while lowering their risk of degenerative hip disease.
“We know from patient studies that people who suffer from early hip-joint failure often had previous structural problems with their natural hip,” says orthopedic surgeon and hip preservation specialist Cara Beth Lee, MD. “Now we have ways to surgically correct hip deformities to restore proper function, relieve pain and potentially prevent hip disease and the future need for total joint replacement.”
Hip preservation surgery encompasses an array of techniques designed to correct improper joint function. Two conditions involving mechanical dysfunction of the hip include:
- Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI). Sometimes the ball (head of the femur) is misshapen, often due to the overgrowth of bone. The repetitive contact between abnormal bone and healthy tissue can result in long-term damage, including arthritis.
- Acetabular dysplasia. The acetabulum, or hip socket, can sometimes be deficient or shallow. Without treatment, cartilage can wear away or develop tears, causing further degeneration.
Once diagnosed by way of a focused patient history, physical exam and imaging studies, the right surgical therapy can be chosen to prevent or slow the progression of disease by correcting joint irregularities. Surgical approaches effective for restoring and preserving hip function include:
- Hip arthroscopy. Hip arthroscopy is a minimally-invasive, outpatient procedure performed through small incisions. An arthroscopic approach can be used to correct the bony deformity of FAI, repair torn tissue and treat other cartilage damage that can be associated with impingement.
- Surgical hip dislocation (SHD). In this procedure, the hip socket is accessed through an open incision and the ball is gently levered out of the socket (dislocation). Because all parts of the joint are exposed and accessible, SHD can be effective for treating dysfunction caused by more severe joint deformities.
- Hip osteotomies. These procedures are used to realign the bones of the hip joint to improve joint function. Depending on the needs of the patient, the procedure is focused on repositioning the femoral head (femoral osteotomy) or adjusting the position of the socket (periacetabular osteotomy) in patients with dysplasia.
If you think your hip pain might be telling you something, it’s probably time to see a medical professional. To get the most advanced diagnostic services and expertise regarding hip preservation, look for a designated hip preservation program, like the one at Virginia Mason.