McMaster surgeons question effectiveness of popular hip surgery

Major League Baseball players Alex Rodriguez, Chase Utley and former National Football League defensive end Osi Umenyiora have all undergone hip arthroscopic surgery. But does the procedure work?

McMaster University researchers are questioning the effectiveness of the hip surgery popular among young adults and athletes.

Hip arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgery in which doctors insert a small camera into the joint. It has increasingly become the go-to cure for femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), a source of hip pain common in athletes and young adults, where abnormal femurs do not allow for a normal range of motion and lead to damaged cartilage in the joint.  These procedures have increased 18-fold within a decade in the United States.

There have been several studies published about the effectiveness of hip arthroscopic surgeries. However, a team of McMaster surgeons is not convinced.

“The evidence to date is by no means conclusive. Whether hip arthroscopy works, and for whom it works, remains a highly debated issue in our field,” says Mohit Bhandari, professor of orthopedics for McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.”

Bhandari is among the team who will be examining how patients do after having hip arthroscopy operations and comparing those results to patients undergoing a placebo surgery that skips the step of actual repair and tests whether patients feel relief.

The clinical trial, named FIRST, is currently underway, and enrolment of participants will be completed in the next year. The research is funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.


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