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Fall 2004

Arthroscopy Can Conserve Hip Joints in Younger Patients

Young adults suffering from hip pain may benefit from a joint preserving surgery, such as hip arthroscopy, that can delay or avoid hip replacement surgery. “Unlike prosthetic devices, joint preserving solutions can adapt more effectively to the strains of everyday life and, accordingly, can be advantageous to the younger, more active individual,” explains Paul E. Beaulé, M.D., orthopaedic surgeon at Santa Monica- UCLA Medical Center.

Potential candidates include people under 50 years of age who are experiencing persistent hip pain for more than three months despite physical therapy; bursitis that is not improving; catching or locking in the hip; or pain with walking, exercise, or sitting. Pain may also be felt in the groin, buttocks, or thigh area and is often confused with lower back problems.

“The pain can be brought on by a traumatic event, which may have been minor, or through repetitive stress that tears cartilage in the hip joint. Or, the pain may be caused by a malformation of the hip joint, which may be severe or subtle,” Dr. Beaulé says.

Physical therapy and antiinflammatory medications may sufficiently allow patients to maintain their activity level without surgery. Uncorrected, however, the condition causing the pain can lead to hip arthritis.

Possible treatments include hip osteotomies (bone realignment procedures) and less invasive techniques such as hip arthroscopy. Hip arthroscopy, an outpatient procedure, can correct minor bony abnormalities and repair some cartilage damage. Surgeons use the arthroscope to view the entire hip through tiny incisions, and to remove loose bits of cartilage or bone in the joint, or to repair or remove a tear in the hip cartilage.

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