“Hip Preservation” is a subspecialty within orthopedics in which surgeons perform procedures designed specifically to preserve a patient’s natural hip joint, rather than undergoing a hip replacement. These procedures generally are aimed at either re-shaping the hip joint or repairing/replacing damaged tissues.
Why do we strive to preserve the hip joint? For decades, orthopedic surgeons have been very good at diagnosing and treating end-stage arthritis of the hip joint and subsequently treating those hips that have severe arthritis… usually with hip replacement. While hip replacement is a great solution for older patients – relieving pain and improving function for millions, it is not as good a solution for more young, heavier, or more active patients. You see, hip replacements are mechanical… made up of metal, plastic, and sometimes ceramic materials. These materials can wear out over time… especially in younger patients with longer life expectancy and in heavier, more active patients. For this reason, we recommend that those with hip replacements avoid impactful athletic activities… such as running, jogging, or jumping. If a joint replacements parts are worn out prematurely, a patient may have to undergo a second surgery to replace those worn out parts. Obviously, the younger a patient is who receives a
hip replacement, the more likely that he or she will wear out the parts and need to have them replaced in their lifetimes.
For these reasons, whenever possible, we recommend that younger, more active patients consider procedures designed to preserve their native hip joint, rather than replace it.
It is only in recent years that physicians have become more adept at diagnosing conditions early in life that may lead to hip pain and arthritis. Conditions (such as Hip dysplasia, and Femoro-Acetabular impingement (FAI) and labral tears are conditions that we see in younger patients that may cause hip pain and may lead to premature arthritis. These conditions are thankfully correctable, and, if caught before significant arthritis develops, can be addressed to prevent the formation of arthritis in the joint. This helps relieve a patient’s pain and allows patients to be more active with their own hip joints, most often without restrictions.
What can be done to preserve the hip joint? This really depends on what is ailing it. The hip joint is a ball-and-socket shaped joint that consists of the Femoral head (ball), Acetabulum (socket) and a cartilage lining that acts as a cushion between the two. The cartilage cushion within the joint is best treated by a hip arthroscopist.