Diagnosis and non-surgical options for Femoroacetabular Impingement

Ross A. Hauser, MD; Danielle R. Steilen-Matias, MMS, PA-C

In this article, we will tackle the problems of getting an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment options for Femoroacetabular Impingement (FAI). We will also present discussions that the problem of pain and function of Femoroacetabular Impingement can be addressed with treatments that focus on the soft tissue of the hip and low back. We will also focus on treatments that would help prevent bone spurs from developing in the ball and socket hip joint.

Femoroacetabular Impingement (sometimes diagnosed simply as hip impingement) is a condition where abnormal contact and rubbing of the ball and socket portion of the hip bones creates joint-damaging friction. Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) is most often seen in young, active individuals who utilize their hip joints more vigorously than less active and middle-aged individuals, although Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) can occur in anyone who has the bony anomalies associated with the condition.  There is some debate in traditional medicine as to whether Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) is a genetically inherited condition or due to abnormal formation of the hip bones during the childhood growing years, but the prevailing consensus is turning toward the latter theory.

Femoroacetabular impingement can be asymptomatic and not affect function or quality of life. For some people, it is very symptomatic. They have a lot of pain, hip instability, hip labrum damage, and hip cartilage damage resulting in rapid degeneration of the hip joint causing, in many cases, the formation of bone spurs. The bone spurs are there because your body is trying to create hip stability in a hip joint that has become unstable. The loss of stability can be traced to a weakening of the ligaments and tendons of the hip, low back, groin, and hamstring areas. In the minds of some athletes/runners, the bone spur formation at the ball and socket of the hip is the big problem. These runners think the best way to treat bone spur formation is with surgery to shave them off. But is that the best way? Or is it the best way for everyone?

For many athletes/runners, surgery is a concern. Rather than have the surgery, some patients will manage themselves along, as best they can, for as long as they can with the help of painkillers and anti-inflammatories. Most of these people will continue to exercise or run through dull constant pain. For some patients we see, running has now become difficult at best for them. Even as they admit to using over-the-counter anti-inflammatories. These patients tell us that nowadays their run will usually end when the pain becomes too much to handle and running turns into limping.

Before we begin this article and research findings, if you would like to contact our medical team, please use our contact form page. We can help assess your candidacy for our treatments and answer your questions.

Article outline:

Part 1: The diagnosis, concurrent symptoms, and conditions of Femoroacetabular impingement

  • If you have a scan or MRI of your hip showing femoroacetabular impingement, doctors are saying to be cautious going to surgery.
  • The many concurrent diagnoses with Femoroacetabular impingement syndrome.
  • Is it Femoroacetabular impingement causing your issues or do you have hip tendinopathy and Greater trochanteric pain syndrome?
  • Is it Femoroacetabular impingement causing your pain or is it your pelvic or lower back issues?
  • Femoroacetabular impingement syndrome may frequently have co-existing sacroiliac joint pain.
  • If you have back pain, it may not be related to your hip problems. If you have back pain with functional disability it does cause hip problems.
  • The problem of pelvic tilt in Femoroacetabular impingement
  • Sports hernia and femoroacetabular impingement in athletes.
  • Joint Hypermobility and Hypermobile Elhers-Danlos Syndrome

Part 2: Physical therapy or surgery – some interesting studies

  • A well-designed and customized physical therapy program showed benefits and surgical avoidance.
  • A young female athlete helped demonstrate successful management of symptomatic bilateral femoroacetabular impingement syndrome.
    • How much osteoarthritis can you have and still have successful surgery?
    • How severe symptoms can you have and still have successful surgery?
    • Patients with more advanced osteoarthritis may not see long-term benefits.
    • Dance, gymnastics, yoga, cheerleading, figure skating, and martial arts see good results.

Part 3: Who is a better candidate for femoroacetabular impingement syndrome surgery?

  • “The optimal therapy for femoroacetabular impingement is unclear.” Is surgery the answer? That is UNCLEAR.
  • Researchers call for FAI surgery assessment study.
  • There are times when femoroacetabular impingement surgery may be needed.
  • Who is a better candidate for femoroacetabular impingement syndrome surgery?
    • How severe symptoms can you have and still have successful surgery?
    • Patients with more advanced osteoarthritis may not see long-term benefits.
    • Dance, gymnastics, yoga, cheerleading, figure skating, and martial arts see good results.
    • Patients without low back pain fare better with femoroacetabular impingement.

Part 4: Complications following femoroacetabular impingement surgery

  • Doctors are noting that one of the main causes of Femoroacetabular impingement is hip arthroscopic surgery.
  • Compromised hip cartilage after surgery.
  • Rapid onset of hip osteoarthritis after femoroacetabular impingement surgery.
  • Opioids before hip arthroscopy surgery, opioids after hip arthroscopy.
  • Capsular plication – persistent hip pain after hip arthroscopy – the need for another arthroscopic surgery.
  • Kinesiophobia and Pain Catastrophizing in Outcomes After Hip Arthroscopy for Femoroacetabular Impingement Syndrome.

Part 5: Ligaments, tendons, hip instability, and microinstability

  • When Prolotherapy is considered.
  • PRP injection during hip arthroscopy.

Part 1: The diagnosis, concurrent symptoms, and conditions of Femoroacetabular impingement

In this illustration, hip instability caused by injury to the hip labrum or any of the hip ligaments typically causes the two main types of femoracetabular impingement – the pincer type and the CAM type. Prolotherapy (A non-surgical treatment we will describe below) can address hip and ligament injuries or damage and can help resolve the hip pain issue in many cases.

femoracetabular impingement

A person’s story:

A few years ago I had a lower back surgery on my L5-S1 for a ruptured disc that was sending pain into my right glute and into my calf and foot. I had a microdiscectomy and laminectomy. Following my surgery, my symptoms went away.

However, a year after my surgery similar nerve and sciatic symptoms came back. However, this time I had uncomfortable right hip pain. Through further evaluation and MRIs, my MRI showed no re-rupture of the disc. Additionally, the doctors did X-rays on both my hips and found that I have Femoroacetabular Impingement in both my hips.

I’ve seen a few orthopedic doctors who have said that there is no way my sciatic pain is caused by my hip impingement. They have yet to tell me how and why my nerve pain/sciatic pain still occurring.

The story above is one that frequently occurs. A lumbar surgery relieves symptoms, then the symptoms come back. If it is not what the surgery fixed, what is it?

If you have a scan or MRI of your hip showing femoroacetabular impingement, doctors are saying to be cautious going to surgery

Let’s take a small trip down the route of MRIs. We began our journey in 2016.

In a study in the journal Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research (1South Korean doctors from the University of Ulsan College of Medicine expressed concerns that positive MRIs for FAI may be sending many hip pain patients to surgery. The concern was that the patients were believed to be having pain from hip osteoarthritis and they were being sent to arthroscopic surgery to correct a femoroacetabular impingement seen on MRI that was not causing the patient any pain. Below we will discuss more research that suggests that these were wasted surgeries and patients tend to have hip replacement soon after.

Radiographic findings may not be important in the clinical diagnosis of FAI

In January 2017, doctors at Hirosaki University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan published a study in the Journal of Orthopaedic Science (2). The doctors suggested, “Radiographic signs of FAI were not associated with the degree of hip pain or a positive positive anterior impingement sign (the doctor’s attempt to recreate your hip pain in an examination), which suggests that radiographic findings may not be important in the clinical diagnosis of FAI.” In a March 2018 study in the journal Hip Pelvis, researchers found that 31% of MRIs showed FAI in asymptomatic patients. (3)

In January 2022, doctors writing in the Brazilian Journal of Orthopaedics (4) wrote of their findings of MRIs and femoroacetabular impingement and found there was no correlation between the radiographic and arthroscopic findings in the intensity of pain and the disability of the patients. In this study, the patients suffered from more severe pain that did not correlate to the MRIs. The researchers suggested that there was more at play here than the MRI was showing, that a “multidimensional nature of pain, especially in individuals with chronic hip pain, in whom, in addition to the physical aspects, psychological factors, such as anxiety, depression, dysfunctional beliefs about their pain and mental health, may contribute to the magnitude and chronicity of the symptoms and the disability.”

The many concurrent diagnoses with Femoroacetabular impingement syndrome

In August 2022 Doctors at  Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center wrote in the journal Frontiers in Surgery (5)

  • “several concurrent or contributing pathologies may exist that exacerbate hip pain and are not addressed by the arthroscopic intervention of cam and pincer morphologies.” (In other words, a problem causing you pain, is still there after arthroscopic procedures for cam and pincer issues.)
  • Lumbopelvic stiffness places increased stress on the hip to achieve necessary flexion.
  • Degenerative injury at the pubic symphysis and sacroiliac joint may exist concurrently with Femoroacetabular impingement syndrome through aberrant muscle forces. (The muscles are in spasms, weak, or overworked.)
  • Additionally, both femoral and acetabular retro- or anteversion may contribute to impingement not associated with traditional cam/pincer lesions. Finally, microinstability of the hip from either osseous or capsuloligamentous pathology is increasingly being recognized as a source of hip pain. The present review investigates the pathophysiology and evaluation of alternate causes of hip pain in FAIS that must be evaluated to optimize patient outcomes.

Is it Femoroacetabular impingement causing your issues or do you have hip tendinopathy and Greater trochanteric pain syndrome?

As we have mentioned many times in our hip pain-related articles, the hip is a big joint, we believe to help patients achieve their treatment goals, the entire hip needs to be examined with recommendations for treating the whole hip joint.

  • Recently in our article on greater trochanter pain syndrome, an example of the problems in getting successful treatment is found in treatment failures where concentrating on specific hip problems instead of treating the whole hip joint shows why some hip procedures did not work as well as they should have.

The example we cited is a new paper from doctors in Italy who looked to see what caused greater trochanter pain syndrome in patients with suspected femoroacetabular impingement syndrome. (6)

  • After magnetic resonance arthrography of the hip and evaluation of 189 patients, in the end, it was hard to say why patients with suspected femoroacetabular impingement syndrome also suffered from greater trochanter pain syndrome.
  • Why? Because the biggest problem 38%  of the patients had tendinopathy of the hip, and 16% had bursitis. Problems considered “normal hip pathology.” So there were many problems causing the patient’s discomfort, simply treating one problem or the other was not going to help patients in the long run.

Is it Femoroacetabular impingement causing your pain or is it your pelvic or lower back issues?

Doctors from Cambridge University Hospitals wrote in the journal International Orthopaedics (7)  that extra-articular hip impingement syndromes encompass a group of conditions that have previously been an unrecognized source of pain. Extra-articular hip impingement syndromes mean problems caused from outside of the hip joint itself as opposed to intra-articular hip impingement syndromes which come from within the hip itself. Where it was once thought that hip impingement was caused by bone abnormalities limited to the ball and socket portion of the hip joint, doctors, including the Cambridge report cited below are finding that hip impingement can be caused by the pelvic bones as well.

The Cambridge doctors categorized these syndromes as:

  1. Ischiofemoral impingement: quadratus femoris muscle becomes compressed between the lesser trochanter portion of the thigh bone and the ischial tuberosity (the sit bones of the lower pelvis). We cover this problem in our article: Ischial tuberosity pain and ischiofemoral impingement: Here we describe Ischial tuberosity pain and ischiofemoral impingement. The focus will be on two types of problems. Impingement caused by instability and non or malunion of the fragment of the Ischial tuberosity caused by apophyseal (growth plate) avulsion fractures in young athletes.
  2. Subspine impingement: anatomical problems of the anterior inferior iliac spine (the wing of the upper iliac/pelvic bones) and the distal anterior femoral neck (the neck of the thigh bone) causing soft tissue entrapment of muscle and tendon.
  3. Iliopsoas impingement: friction between the iliopsoas muscle and the hip labrum, resulting in hip labrum breakdown. We cover issues in this article of the iliopsoas or psoas muscle as a cause of difficult-to-treat groin pain. Also, see our article on surgery for hip labral tear.
  4. Deep gluteal syndrome: pain occurs in the buttock due to the entrapment of the sciatic nerve in the deep gluteal space. In our articles, we cover a lot of information on buttock pain and the pelvis, lower spine connection. See also the connection with hamstring injuries
  5. Pectineofoveal impingement: pain occurs when the medial synovial fold impinges against overlying soft tissue, primarily the zona orbicularis (the hip annular ligament).

The researchers concluded with a message to doctors that extra-articular hip impingement syndromes should be taken into consideration and should form a part of the differential diagnoses alongside intra-articular pathology including femoro-acetabular impingement, particularly in the younger patient with a non-arthritic hip.

Questioning the MRI AGAIN

As described above, Subspine impingement involves problems of the anterior inferior iliac spine and the neck of the thigh bone. In looking at patients with Anterior Inferior Iliac Spine problems, doctors at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center suggest that a high percentage of patients with Anterior Inferior Iliac Spine problems are associated with subspinous impingement are, in fact, asymptomatic. That the current radiographic classification system should not be used exclusively for clinical decision-making. (8)

Femoroacetabular impingement syndrome may frequently have co-existing sacroiliac joint pain

An August 2022 paper from Rush University Medical Center, published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine (9) examined the effect of sacroiliac joint pain on surgery outcomes in patients who had hip arthroscopy for Femoroacetabular Impingement Syndrome.

The researchers noted: “Patients with femoroacetabular impingement syndrome may frequently have co-existing sacroiliac joint pain. It is known that patients with lower back pain undergoing total hip arthroplasty (total hip replacement) have inferior outcomes; however, it is unclear what the effect of sacroiliac joint pain is on outcomes after hip arthroscopy.

Study learning points:

  • Patients with a minimum 2-year follow-up who underwent primary hip arthroscopy for Femoroacetabular Impingement Syndrome with sacroiliac joint pain, a total of 73 patients (75 hips) with SIJ pain were matched to 150 control patients (150 hips) without SIJ pain.
  • Both groups demonstrated statistically significant improvement in all patient-reported outcomes at 2 years.
  • Patients with SIJ pain had significantly lower postoperative patient-reported outcomes scores for pain, disability, and quality of life.
  • The SIJ pain group had significantly lower achievement of Minimal clinically important differences (MCID).

Conclusion: “Patients with Femoroacetabular Impingement Syndrome and sacroiliac joint pain on history or physical examination experience significant improvement in patient-reported outcomes at 2 years after hip arthroscopy. However, they may be less likely to achieve the Minimal clinically important differences (MCID) or PASS (Patient Acceptable Symptom State – what they consider a successful treatment despite remaining symptoms) and have significantly lower postoperative patient-reported outcomes compared with a matched cohort of patients without SIJ pain. Overall rates of revision and conversion to total hip replacement were similarly low in both groups.”

The conclusion of this research made a point about function. If you have back pain, it may not be related to your hip problems. If you have back pain with functional disability it does cause hip problems

A January 2022 study from researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center (10) examined the prevalence of low back pain and related disability in patients with femoroacetabular impingement syndrome. As stated in the paper, it is understood that low back pain has been associated with worse hip function for persons with femoroacetabular impingement syndrome (FAIS).  What the researchers wanted to establish here was a patient profile to help doctors recognize problems of hip function and both low back-related disability and low back pain severity. The authors hypothesized that participants with low back pain would be older, have higher body mass index (BMI), and report worse groin pain, longer symptom duration, and worse hip function.

Using Visual analog pain scales (VAS 0-100 with 0 being no pain and 100 being extreme pain, disability, function loss) the researchers were able to categorize participants with and without clinically significant low back pain. Age, sex, BMI, pain severity and duration, and hip function (33-item Hip Outcome Tool [iHOT33]) were compared between those with and without clinically significant LBP.

Sixty percent of participants reported clinically significant low back pain.

  • These participants reported worse iHOT33 scores (a iHOT33 survey is usually given to younger patients to help assess a recommendation to hip arthroscopic surgery – a worse score means hip pain and disability) than those without clinically significant low back pain.
  • Worse Oswestry Disability Index (the most common test to assess a patient’s answers for low back pain) scores were associated with worse iHOT33 scores. (The worse the back pain the worse the hip pain).
  • Clinically significant low back pain is highly prevalent in persons with femoroacetabular impingement syndrome and is associated with worse hip function.

The conclusion of this research made a point about function. If you have back pain, it may not be related to your hip problems. If you have back pain with functional disability it does cause hip problems.

  • Worse low back pain-related disability, but not low back pain severity, was strongly associated with worse hip function.  (In other words, low back pain did not cause a worse hip condition, but low back pain with functional disability did).

The problem of pelvic tilt in Femoroacetabular impingement

A February 2021 study in the European Spine Journal (11) looked at adult spinal deformity patients’ hip orientation in a standing position and how they anatomically compensated for problems of pelvic tilt, abnormal spine curvature, and leg-length discrepancies. What they were keying in on was how much a patient bent their knees to try to “level” out.

The patients were divided into two groups:

  • Adult spinal deformity with knee flexion if they compensated by flexing their knees
  • and ASD with knee extension (simply, straightening out of the knee).

The patients with Adult spinal deformity who used a bent knee approach to trying to level out had:

  • the higher sagittal vertical axis (a spinal imbalance leading to loss of the natural curvature of the spine),
  • Pelvic tilt with an additional altered tilting of the acetabular (hip socket).
  • pelvic incidence-lumbar lordosis mismatch

Conclusions: Adult spinal deformity patients compensating with knee flexion have altered hip orientation which can lead to posterior femoroacetabular impingement, thus limiting pelvic retroversion (the natural movement of the pelvis behind the spine in part due to loss of the natural curve or lordosis of the lumbar region). This underlying mechanism could be potentially involved in the hip-spine syndrome.

Please see our article: Treatments for leg length discrepancy, pelvic tilt, pelvic incidence-lumbar lordosis mismatch, and walking difficulties for a more detailed discussion.

A December 2023 paper in the journal Orthopaedics & traumatology, surgery & research (12)  examined the link between femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) and the lumbar-pelvic-femoral complex (LPFC). What the researchers were trying to show was that people with radiological signs of femoroacetabular impingement but no symptoms had superior pelvic anteversion. A pelvis tilted backward.

  • One hundred and eighteen patients 62 men (52.5%) with an average age of 25.6 years were divided into two groups. Those who had x-rays showing radiological signs of FAI (cam, pincer, mixed) and those who showed no radiological signs of FAI.
  • There were 143 hips in the FAI “positive” group compared to 93 hips in the FAI “negative” group. There were 36.4% cams and 45% pincers.

What the researchers found was that the pelvic version (tilt forward) was significantly lower in the FAI “positive” group compared to the FAI “negative” group demonstrating “that asymptomatic subjects presenting with radiological signs of FAI have more anteverted pelvises.” They add a “subgroup analysis suggests that this pelvic anteversion in the standing position mainly concerns subjects with pincer x-ray images.”

What does this all mean? Basically, there are no symptoms because the pelvis has rotated back, this was a group of 25 year olds, and eventually many would see problems and the development of symptoms.

Sports hernia and femoroacetabular impingement in athletes

The idea that sports-related chronic groin pain represents a major diagnostic and therapeutic challenge in sports medicine has been discussed at length in medical research. Ohio State University researchers writing in the medical journal Frontiers in Surgery. write the “complexity of the anatomy and biomechanics of the groin makes these injuries more difficult to identify and manage. Patients may find themselves evaluated by multiple physicians and receive numerous diagnostic studies over a period of months. (13)

Italian researchers reporting in the World Journal of Clinical Cases say Femoroacetabular impingement has been reported in as few as 12% to as high as 94% of patients with sports hernias, athletic pubalgia, or adductor-related groin pain.

Cam-type impingement is proposed to lead to increased symphyseal motion (resulting in cartilage deterioration)  with overload on the surrounding extra-articular structures and muscles, which can result in the development of sports hernia and athletic pubalgia. In simpler terms, hip/pelvic instability.

In this paper, the researchers suggest that for patients with FAI and sports hernia, the surgical management of both problems is more effective than sports pubalgia surgery or hip arthroscopy alone (89% vs 33% of cases).

As sports hernias and FAI are typically treated by general and orthopedic surgeons, respectively, a multidisciplinary approach for diagnosis and treatment is recommended for optimal treatment of patients with these injuries. (14)

This idea that to successfully treat a sports hernia you would need to surgically repair numerous areas is not new. In 2011 doctors at the Minnesota Orthopedic Sports Medicine Institute wrote: When surgery only addressed either the athletic pubalgia or intra-articular hip pathology in this patient population, outcomes were suboptimal. Surgical management of both disorders concurrently or in a staged manner led to improved postoperative outcomes scoring and an unrestricted return to sporting activity in 89% of hips. (15)

For some athletes, this is good news, for others multi-stage surgeries present time off challenges. Here are the results of that study:

  • 37 hips (mean patient age, 25 years) were diagnosed with both symptomatic athletic pubalgia and symptomatic intra-articular hip joint pathology.
  • There were 8 professional athletes, 15 collegiate athletes, 5 elite high school athletes, and 9 competitive club athletes.
  • Outcomes included an evaluation regarding return to sports and various scoring systems to determine successful treatment.
    • Thirty-one hips underwent thirty-five athletic pubalgia surgeries.
    • Hip arthroscopy was performed in 32 hips (30 cases of femoroacetabular impingement treatment, 1 traumatic labral tear, and 1 borderline dysplasia).
    • Of 16 hips that had athletic pubalgia surgery as the index procedure, 4 (25%) returned to sports without limitations, and 11 (69%) subsequently had hip arthroscopy at a mean of 20 months after pubalgia surgery.
    • Of 8 hips managed initially with hip arthroscopy alone, 4 (50%) returned to sports without limitations, and 3 (43%) had subsequent pubalgia surgery at a mean of 6 months after hip arthroscopy.
    • Thirteen hips had athletic pubalgia surgery and hip arthroscopy in one setting. Concurrent or eventual surgical treatment of both disorders led to improved postoperative outcomes scores in sporting activity in 89% of hips (24 of 27).

Joint Hypermobility and Hypermobile Elhers-Danlos Syndrome

An August 2022 paper in the medical journal Arthroscopy (16) examined a greater incidence of iliopsoas tendinitis in postoperative hip arthroscopy patients treated for femoroacetabular impingement (FAI). In this study, forty patients in whom postoperative iliopsoas tendinitis developed were identified and matched to 40 control patients in whom postoperative tendinitis did not develop. Increased joint hypermobility, quantified by the Beighton (joint hypermobility) score, was associated with an increased risk of iliopsoas tendinitis.

I can’t sleep because of my hip, stress, worry, thinking about surgery, no surgery, and I have a lot of pain.

Very common in patients with any type of pain is the problem of getting good sleep. You probably did not need to be told this. Sleep problems, fatigue, and always being tired may be a deciding factor in waiting for a surgical date. Of course, you may have to increase medications to get you to your future surgery. In this article, we hope to present options and research that will help you today. The quicker you can successfully treat Femoroacetabular Impingement, even if the initial improvement is small, the benefit is great. In February 2020, researchers writing in the journal  BioMed Central Musculoskeletal Disorders,(17) offered these guidelines:

“Patients with Symptomatic Femoroacetabular Impingement syndrome and acetabular dysplasia (shallow hip socket) have poor sleep quality. Worsening pain from a patient’s hip pathology is associated with poor sleep, even prior to the onset of osteoarthritis of the hip. . . We also found that sleep quality was better with higher scores indicating lower pain, fewer role limitations due to emotional problems, and improved mental health. Patients presenting with hip pain from Femoroacetabular Impingement syndrome and acetabular dysplasia should be screened for sleep disturbance and may benefit from a multidisciplinary treatment approach.”

No recommendations to address chronic sleep dysfunction

A January 2022 study from Duke University Medical Center published in the Arthroscopy, Sports Medicine, and Rehabilitation (18) reported “In most treatment programs for FAIS, there are no recommendations to address the chronic sleep dysfunction in these patients. . . Most treatment modalities focus on addressing physical function with physical therapy for a functional range of motion and strength training. Other treatments focus on pain relief with a variety of measures that include the use of acetaminophen, NSAIDs, opioids, massage therapy, acupuncture, injection, and/or activity modification to reduce painful activities.”

Part 2: Physical therapy or surgery – some interesting studies

A December 2023 review study published in the journal Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine (19) wrote: “NSAIDs and cortisone injections have a role in controlling pain originate from inflammation and if combined with local anesthetic medications, cortisone injections have also a diagnostic role, especially in doubtful clinical cases. However, formal physical therapy is the mainstay of conservative treatment.”

Now let’s review the research on conservative care options.

A well-designed and customized physical therapy program showed benefits and surgical avoidance

In the December 2018 issue of the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy (20) research led by Creighton University Medical Center, suggested that a well-designed and customized physical therapy program showed benefit and surgical avoidance in six patients scheduled for femoroacetabular impingement surgery. The highlights of this research are:

  • Despite femoroacetabular impingement being a problem of many factors, surgical management to correct bone abnormality has been the predominant focus.
  • The obvious findings of bone abnormality provide a simple answer that lends itself well to the idea of surgical correction
  • However, the high prevalence of bone abnormality findings in asymptomatic, pain-free individuals suggests the problem is more complex.
  • The patient cases of this study illustrate the clinical reasoning process (customized therapy based on the patient’s goals and need of treatment) utilized to prioritize subjects’ treatment along with a continuum of neuromuscular control (training the muscles to help provide stability in the hip) and mobility. The treatment approach also illustrates the successful management of potential surgical candidates who elected to forego surgery after satisfactory completion of conservative management.

A brief note: We work with physical therapists, especially in patients who do not respond to physical therapy to help them respond to the treatment. Please see our article Why physical therapy and exercise did not restore muscle strength in hip osteoarthritis patients, this will show how strengthening tendons and ligaments provide the resistance necessary in some patients to maximize the benefits of PT.

To take this line of thinking one step further, that strengthened connective tissue in the hip could provide a counterbalance in asymptomatic FAI patients, let’s look at a study (July 2018) in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine (21) Here researchers looked at patients with femoroacetabular deformity (FAD) who do not experience pain.

  • The FAD group was significantly stronger than the FAI (patients with pain)  and control groups during hip extension, and the femoroacetabular deformity group had a greater sagittal (left/right) pelvic range of motion and could squat to a greater depth than the FAI group.
  • The stronger hip extensors (the muscles Gluteus maximus, Biceps femoris, Semitendinosus, and Semimembranosus) of the femoroacetabular deformity are associated with a greater pelvic range of motion, allowing for greater posterior pelvic tilt, possibly reducing the risk of impingement while performing the squat, and resulting in a greater squat depth compared with those with symptomatic FAI.

Conclusion: Improving hip extensor strength and pelvic mobility may positively affect symptoms for patients with FAI.

The third study could not make a recommendation as to which treatment the patient should pursue, surgery or physical therapy. Appearing in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine (22) in April 2020, researchers at Washington University suggest “superior outcomes of surgery compared to PT. However, PT can result in improvements in some patients and does not appear to compromise surgical outcomes.”

In other words, try physical therapy first and if it does not work, then consider surgery. Which is pretty much the standard protocol.

This too was suggested by a more recent December 2020 study in The Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, (23) here the surgeons reported:

“Controversy exists as to the management of femoroacetabular impingement. When nonsurgical management of symptomatic FAI fails, surgical management is generally indicated. However, many groups with a stake in patient care (particularly payors) have insisted on higher levels of evidence.

Recently, there have been several Level I studies (higher quality research) published, comparing physical therapy with hip arthroscopy in the management of symptomatic FAI. All of these studies have used outcomes tools developed and validated for patients with non-arthritic hip pain. The highest level evidence confirms that although patients with FAI do benefit from physical therapy, patients who undergo surgical management for FAI with hip arthroscopy benefit more than those who undergo physical therapy.”

A young female athlete helped demonstrate successful management of symptomatic bilateral femoroacetabular impingement syndrome

In September 2018, an interesting case history was presented in the Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine. (24) In this study, a young female athlete helped demonstrate the successful management of symptomatic bilateral femoroacetabular impingement syndrome. She had surgery on one side and non-surgical treatment on the other side. What did the researchers find? They could not really tell.

  • “The strengths of the presented case report are the opportunity to compare surgical treatment and non-surgical treatment in the same patient, as well as a long follow-up period for the surgically treated hip and the use of PROM (patient-reported outcome questioning) validated for use in a young and active population.
    • The limitations in the present case report are the lack of pre-treatment PROM data for both hips, which limits the opportunity to draw any firm conclusions about the baseline condition and amount of improvement.
    • The different alpha angles ( a way to measure hip dysplasia, the abnormal placement of the ball in relationship to the socket) for the two hips, 60° for the surgically treated side and 50° for the non-surgically treated side, also limit the opportunity for comparison. NOTE the non-surgically treated hip dysplasia is more severe. 
    • No gait analysis was performed and it is, therefore, possible that the patient was unloading one hip, generating a false favorable result for the other hip.
    • It is worth mentioning that both treatment regimens included physiotherapy, but postoperative physiotherapy was mainly aimed at gradually increasing the load on the hip, while physiotherapy for the non-surgically treated hip was aimed at strengthening and stabilizing the hip girdle in a pain-free range of motion.
    • Peri-operatively, there were no macroscopic findings of injury to the cartilage or the labrum. With pain from the hip, this is, however, unlikely to be true and highlights the difficulty involved in assessing less extensive soft-tissue damage visually.”

The bottom line factor here is that it was, in fact, difficult to compare surgery to physical therapy even in the same person for numerous reasons. One is, that the similar lack of success of the treatments was influenced by the fact the female athlete reduced her activity level. Lastly, the patient was a 31-year-old physiotherapist.

Stopping the progress of Femoroacetabular Impingement – non-surgically
Femoroacetabular Impingement and Hip Instability

European researchers writing in the journal Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy (25) set out to examine previously published research to assess the outcomes of all the non-operative modalities of management for femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) and concomitant osteoarthritis Tönnis Grade 2 or more. What they found was there were no studies or “reported outcomes separately for non-operative management of FAI with Tönnis Grade 2 osteoarthritis or more.”

The researchers then went to a secondary analysis including 24 studies that reported on outcomes for non-operative interventions for FAI irrespective of the degree of degeneration.

  • Three studies investigated the efficacy of hyaluronic acid injection,
  • 5 reports investigated corticosteroid injections,
  • 2 studies evaluated the outcomes of hip bracing and
  • 16 studies included a physiotherapy program.

There is level I (very good to excellent) evidence supporting the effectiveness of activity modification and hip-specific physiotherapy for femoroacetabular impingement and mild osteoarthritis. Core-strengthening exercises have been shown to be among the more successful regimens. Contradictory evidence questions the efficacy of hip bracing even for short-term outcomes.

Corticosteroid injections have mostly failed in intention-to-treat analyses but may be valuable in delaying the need for surgery. Reports on outcomes following hyaluronic acid injections are contradictory.

The case surrounds a 25-year-old female athlete who was able to avoid surgery with an exercise program.

As in the many conditions we see, Femoroacetabular Impingement is not a condition or diagnosis that sits in isolation. It is typically part of a bigger picture of hip instability. A December 2019 published case history (26) examined the role of microinstability of the hip and the many simultaneous conditions it can lead to. What is described herein in this Canadian medical journal is very similar to the problems we have seen in the past 29-plus years. The case surrounds a 25-year-old female athlete who was able to avoid surgery with an exercise program. Here is the case:

“This case is designed to aid practitioners in understanding the potential role of hip microinstability as a possible underlying source of hip pain and dysfunction. A 25-year-old female collegiate cross-country athlete presented with a 2-year history of progressive left hip and groin pain. Extensive clinical examination and imaging confirmed the presence of cam-type femoroacetabular impingement, a labral tear, and gluteal tendinopathy. Despite multiple intra and extra-articular (conditions), understanding the role of hip instability and implementing a rehabilitation exercise program focused on hip joint centration (exercises that hold the hip joint in its proper alignment and position) alleviated the patient’s symptoms at rest and during activity.

A robust history and physical exam of the hip is essential with the addition of imaging when testing criteria is positive. Clinicians should be aware of the role hip microinstability plays and its clinical implications when in the presence of other contributing factors such as generalized joint laxity, and/or intra-articular pathology.”

For some people, exercise programs that get the hip back into its natural and optimal position will work very well. For those it does not, we will present the information below on regenerative medicine injections that can accelerate the healing process.

These are options for the traditional treatments of prolonged anti-inflammatory use and possibly the eventual need for surgical repair.

Part 3: Who is a better candidate for femoroacetabular impingement syndrome surgery?

Who is a better candidate for femoroacetabular impingement syndrome surgery?

“The optimal therapy for femoroacetabular impingement is unclear.” Is surgery the answer? That is UNCLEAR

Often we will hear a story from a patient where they were told that surgery is the only option. But they themselves were not convinced and started researching alternatives. For some people, surgery may be the only option. Who are those people, we are going to let the research from surgeons discussed below help answer that question.

Here is something typically that a new patient will say:

I have to have the surgery, my orthopedist is strongly recommending it. I need some bone shaved down. But to get to the surgery I have to go through a course of physical therapy. I am anxious to do the physical therapy but I am not sure how much it will help at this time. I have been doing stretching and yoga and exercises I found online. I am here and seeing a surgeon because these exercises have not really helped. (See below for our discussion on physical therapy).

This next section of our article will deal with the surgical challenges of femoroacetabular impingement. As we do in all our articles, when surgery is discussed, we bring in the opinions of some of the world’s leading surgical researchers.

In the medical journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage (27) doctors found: “The optimal therapy for femoroacetabular impingement is unclear,” in trying to prove the surgical options available to patients. The doctors noted in their research of 18 studies comparing management strategies – none of these studies compared surgical and non-surgical treatment.

“Although evidence supports improvement in symptoms after surgery in FAI, no studies have compared surgical and non-surgical treatment. Therefore no conclusion regarding the relative efficacy of one approach over the other can be made. Surgery improves alpha angle (improper position of the ball in the socket)  but whether this alters the risk of development or progression of hip osteoarthritis is unknown. This review highlights the lack of evidence for the use of surgery in FAI. Given that hip geometry may be modified by non-surgical factors, clarifying the role of non-surgical approaches vs surgery for the management of FAI is warranted.”

In 2023 that research was cited in a study published in the journal Scientific Reports (28) where arthroscopic outcomes, arthroscopic lavage (a washing out of the joint space with saline, used as a control), and physiotherapy outcomes in patients with femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) were compared. This was a data review of  839 patients (407 females). Patient-reported outcomes showed significant differences at 12 months in favor of the arthroscopy group against the lavage (control) group and the physical therapy group, however, minimum clinically relevant improvement was not achieved. *This suggests that while better results were obtained, the results did not benefit the patient that a difference could be seen). Further, the rates of osteoarthritis and numbness were significantly higher in the arthroscopy group. . . Finally, arthroscopic surgery results in a high rate of conversion to osteoarthritis.”

Researchers call for FAI surgery assessment study

In the April 2018 edition of The Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, (29) researchers announced a study to assess the effectiveness of FAI surgery. Here are the highlights of what the research surgeons hope to accomplish and preliminary observations:

  • The number of arthroscopic surgical procedures for patients with femoroacetabular impingement syndrome has significantly increased worldwide, but high-quality evidence of the effect of such interventions is lacking.
  • The primary objective will be to determine the efficacy of hip arthroscopic procedures compared to sham surgery on patient-reported outcomes for patients with femoroacetabular impingement syndrome.
  • The secondary objective will be to evaluate prognostic factors for long-term outcomes after arthroscopic surgical interventions in these patients.
  • The researchers will also look at long-term outcomes in problems that are common in femoroacetabular impingement surgery post-op:
    • Hip disability and Osteoarthritis
    • fear of movement
    • Function
    • Patient expectations and disappointment

An October 2022 study in the Journal of clinical medicine (30) demonstrated “beneficial effects for both arthroscopic treatment and a proper regimen of physical therapy, nevertheless, a surgical approach seemed to offer superior short-term results when compared to conservative care only.” As we will see in other studies and eventual conversion to hip replacement, arthroscopic surgery is more considered “short-term.”

There are times when femoroacetabular impingement surgery may be needed.

There are times when femoroacetabular impingement surgery may be needed. There are other times when femoroacetabular impingement surgery may be THOUGHT to be needed. But can probably be avoided. There are times when non-surgical consideration should be given top consideration.

Here are the traditional Femoroacetabular Impingement problems that may be addressed surgically:

Pincer femoroacetabular impingement

  • In pincer femoroacetabular impingement, when the hip is in full flexion (as in pulling your knee to the chest), the femoral head-neck junction hits the anterosuperior aspect (the front of the acetabulum). This problem is commonly caused by the socket being “too deep,” and the ball will pinch structures like the labrum between the acetabulum and the femur neck, this problem is also diagnosed as coxa profunda or protrusion acetabuli (where the ball of the hip protrudes into the pelvic area).

Cam femoroacetabular impingement

  • In cam femoroacetabular impingement, there is abnormal contact between the head and socket of the hip because of a loss of roundness of the femoral head. Cam deformities may be recommended for surgery when there is femoral head asphericity, such as flattening of the anterior contour of the femur head/neck junction or an osseous bump. The bump is often located anterolaterally or anterosuperiorly at the head-neck junction and is commonly called a “pistol grip” deformity.  This loss of roundness causes abnormal contact between the head and the socket of the hip. In cam FAI, the impingement typically occurs when the hip is flexed, but also internally rotated. As already mentioned, patients often have “mixed” FAI, meaning they have a combination of both.

Who is a better candidate for femoroacetabular impingement syndrome surgery?

How much osteoarthritis can you have and still have successful surgery?

A January 2024 study in Clinical Orthopaedics and related research (31) assessed the degree of osteoarthritis a patient can have and still have successful femoroacetabular impingement surgery, in this case, mini-open femoroacetabular osteoplasty (bone reshaping).

In this study, patients with Tönnis Grades 2 or 3 (advanced to severe osteoarthritis) were followed and their subsequent conversion to total hip replacement was compared to those patients with none or mild osteoarthritis (Tönnis Grade 0 or 1).

Of 901 patients treated, 6% of patients (51 individuals) had Tönnis Grade 2 or higher hip osteoarthritis, while the remaining 94% (850 patients) had no or mild degenerative changes (Tönnis Grade 0 or 1). At five years, approximately 25% of patients undergoing mini-open femoroacetabular osteoplasty with Tönnis Grade 2 or higher osteoarthritis underwent conversion to total hip replacement. Some postoperative functional scores were lower in patients with advanced arthritis than in matched patients with no or mild arthritis. (The study doctors) emphasized the importance of exercising caution when considering femoroacetabular osteoplasty in patients in whom advanced arthritis is already evident at the time of presentation.

How severe symptoms can you have and still have successful surgery?

In December 2023 doctors at the NYU Langone Medical Center Department of Medicine Division of Rheumatology, publishing in the Bulletin of the Hospital for Joint Disease (32) assessed “the prognostic effect of preoperative symptom severity on hip arthroscopy outcomes for femoroacetabular impingement syndrome (FAI).” In other words, did the severity of symptoms impact the success of the surgery up to five years out?

Using standard patient-reported outcome scores, 105 patients with an average age of about 42 years old were divided into groups. One group was the high preoperative function and one group was the low preoperative function patients. At five years the pre-surgery higher functional group achieved a higher Minimal Clinically Important Difference (77% vs. 57%).

High versus low preoperative function achieved higher Patient Acceptable Symptomatic State (symptoms had improved enough that the patient considers themselves “well” at 5 years (66% vs. 45%)).

The researchers concluded: “Preoperative symptom severity is a reliable prognostic indicator of clinical survival rates (less need for revision surgery) and (patient-reported outcomes) after hip arthroscopy for femoroacetabular impingement syndrome. Subjects with high preoperative function are likely to have increased longevity of the index procedure (survivorship of the first surgery) while maintaining excellent Patient Acceptable Symptomatic State and Minimal Clinically Important Difference rates mid-term as opposed to those with low preoperative function.”

Patients with more advanced osteoarthritis may not see long-term benefit

A January 2024 paper in the American Journal of Sports Medicine (33) comes from specialists at Rush University Medical Center, NYU Langone Orthopaedic Hospital, and the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. In this paper, a comparison is made in outcomes and rates of secondary surgery at a minimum 10-year follow-up, including revision hip arthroscopy and conversion to total hip arthroplasty (THA), in patients with Tönnis (severity of osteoarthritis) grade 1 (mild) undergoing hip arthroscopy for Femoroacetabular Impingement Syndrome compared with a  control group of patients with Tönnis grade 0. (Normal, no osteoarthritis).

  • A total of 31 patients with Tönnis grade 1 were matched to 62 patients with Tönnis grade 0
  • Both the Tönnis grade 1 and Tönnis grade 0 groups demonstrated significant improvements regarding all patient-reported outcomes at a minimum of 10 years, except for the Hip Outcome Score Activities of Daily Living subscale in the Tönnis grade 1 group.
  • Patients with Tönnis grade 1 had significantly higher rates of conversion to total hip replacement compared with patients who had Tönnis grade 0 (25.8% vs 4.8%). Patients with Tönnis grade 1 had significantly lower gross survivorship compared with those who had Tönnis grade 0 (71.0% vs 85.5%).

Conclusion: “Hip arthroscopy confers comparable postoperative clinical improvements to patients who have Femoroacetabular Impingement Syndrome with and without mild osteoarthritis; however, the benefits among patients with mild osteoarthritis may be less durable.”

Dance, gymnastics, yoga, cheerleading, figure skating, and martial arts see good results

A December 2023 study (34) from doctors at Michigan State University and McMaster University in Canada, focused their attention on athletes who require great flexibility in their sport and their outcomes following hip arthroscopy for femoroacetabular impingement syndrome. These athletes are typically seen in “dance, gymnastics, yoga, cheerleading, figure skating, and martial arts.”

Studies suggest that for this athlete population, surgery may be better than traditional conservative care of rest, anti-inflammatory, physical therapy, etc. In this paper of 289 patients, 75.6% to 98% returned to sport at a similar or higher level than pre-surgery at 12 months.

Improvement in sexual function and activity

A December 2023 study in the journal Arthroscopy (35) found hip arthroscopy for symptomatic FAI produces an improvement in sexual function and activity. Scores for sexual function improved regardless of patient age or sex; however, female patients experienced a greater improvement in sexual function than males.

Patients without low back pain fare better with femoroacetabular impingement

A December 2023 patient review study (36) looked at outcomes in patients with low-back problems undergoing primary hip arthroscopy for the treatment of femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) syndrome. Led by researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, and the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, Yale School of Medicine, doctors reviewed fourteen previously published studies which included 750 hips with low-back pathology and FAI (hip-spine syndrome) and 1,800 hips with only FAI (no hip-spine syndrome). What these researchers found was that “patients undergoing primary femoroacetabular impingement hip arthroscopy with concomitant low-back pathology can expect favorable outcomes, but outcomes are superior in patients undergoing hip arthroscopy for FAI alone compared with FAI with concomitant low-back pathology.

In other words, better results if you do not have low back pain at the time of surgery.

Part 4: Complications following femoroacetabular impingement surgery

Complications following femoroacetabular impingement surgery

Doctors are noting that one of the main causes of Femoroacetabular impingement is hip arthroscopic surgery.

Doctors are noting that one of the main causes of Femoroacetabular impingement is hip arthroscopic surgery.

In an editorial, James H. Lubowitz, M.D. (Editor-in-Chief) wrote in the medical journal Arthroscopy:

Hip femoroacetabular impingement is overwhelmingly the primary cause of revision surgery after hip arthroscopy. FAI imaging is confusing and requires additional research. Therefore, hip arthroscopic surgeons must become experts at clinical evaluation and examination. (37)

Clearly, a connection to the MRI research mentioned earlier.

  • Further, researchers say that patients with protrusion acetabuli (displacement between the ball and socket, seen in advancing osteoarthritis and more common in middle-aged women) are at increased risk for failure after Femoroacetabular Impingement Surgery. (38)

In an editorial, Dr. JW Thomas Byrd writing in Arthroscopy: The Journal of Arthroscopic & Related Surgery, suggests:

When performing arthroscopic surgical management of symptomatic cases of hip femoroacetabular impingement, it is important to consider how much cam lesion resection (removal of labral, cartilage, and/or bone) is required, if any. Generally, failure to adequately address a cam lesion could result in progressive damage to the articular cartilage. Thus, while it is important to consider exactly how much arthroscopic intervention is necessary to achieve successful results, the potential consequences of neglecting a cam lesion are at least as worrisome as the risks of indicated cam lesion treatment. (39)

Sometimes open surgery is required, especially when a higher risk for revision surgery is suspected

In August 2019 a study in the journal Orthopedic Research and Reviews. (40) While arthroscopic management of this condition has become the most common form of surgical management for FAI, inadequate bony resection has been shown to be a frequent source of revision surgery. Therefore, roles for open surgical dislocation and combined mini-open approaches remain, particularly in cases where concern for the inability to fully access the morphology arthroscopically exists.

In March of 2018, New York University’s Bulletin of the Hospital for Joint Diseases published Beyond the Scope Open Treatment of Femoroacetabular Impingement(41)

In this paper, researchers suggested:

  • Several recent reports of revision hip arthroscopy for treatment of residual FAI have exposed potential shortcomings of arthroscopic treatment of FAI, specific limitations with hip arthroscopy’s ability to address large or complex cam and pincer deformities.
  • While hip arthroscopy can certainly be useful for the treatment of FAI in some patients, we have yet to identify which patients truly benefit from this minimally invasive approach and those who are better served by open surgical techniques.

An October 2022 paper in the Journal of Hip Preservation Surgery (42) suggests that  “both open surgery and arthroscopy have shown comparable long-term pain reduction and improvements in clinical measures of hip function, as well as similar conversion rates to total hip arthroplasty. However, arthroscopy has trended toward earlier improvement, quicker recovery, and faster return to sports.” They do note: “However, open surgery may result in higher revision rates.”

Compromised hip cartilage after surgery

In June 2017, researchers in Denmark, as part of the Danish Hip Arthroscopy Registry study and publishing in the medical journal of the International Society of Orthopaedic Surgery and Traumatology (43questioned how cartilage degeneration is treated in patients undergoing Femoroacetabular Impingement surgery.

Listen to these results:

  • The majority of patients with femoroacetabular impingement undergoing hip arthroscopy have significant cartilage changes at the time of surgery primarily at the acetabulum and to a lesser degree at the femoral head.
  • During femoroacetabular impingement surgery, the majority of patients have cartilage debridement performed but rarely cartilage repair.
  • The presence of severe cartilage injury at the time of arthroscopic femoroacetabular impingement surgery results in a reduced subjective outcome and hip function.

An April 2022 paper in the journal Orthopedic Research and Reviews (44) wrote: “Unfortunately, chondral lesions associated with FAI have had poorer outcomes with a higher conversion rate to (hip replacement.)

Rapid onset of hip osteoarthritis after femoroacetabular impingement surgery

In June 2019, the US Army Office of the Surgeon General out of Baylor University published these findings in the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. (45)

  • One of the reported goals of hip preservation surgery is to prevent or delay the onset of osteoarthritis. This includes arthroscopic surgery to manage Femoroacetabular Impingement (FAI) Syndrome. The purpose of this study was to describe the prevalence of clinically diagnosed hip osteoarthritis within 2 years after hip arthroscopy for FAI syndrome, and 2) determine which variables predict a clinical diagnosis of osteoarthritis after arthroscopy.
  • Of 1870 participants in this group of patients (average age 32.2 years), 21.9% (409 post-surgery patients) had a postoperative clinical diagnosis of hip osteoarthritis within 2 years. The 3 significant predictors in the final model were older age, being a male, and having undergone additional hip surgery.

CONCLUSION: A clinical diagnosis of hip osteoarthritis was found in approximately 22% of young patients undergoing hip arthroscopy in as little as 2 years. . .Females were at lower risk while increasing age and multiple surgeries increased the risk for an osteoarthritis diagnosis. Osteoarthritis onset still occurs after “hip preservation” surgery in a substantial number of individuals within 2 years.

Opioids before hip arthroscopy surgery, opioids after hip arthroscopy

We are going to look at a November 2021 study from a combined research group from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the Mayo Clinic, William Beaumont Hospital, Duke University, Durham, and Emory University School of Medicine. This study was published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine (46). What these researchers wanted to answer was the question “What is the association of preoperative opioid use with postoperative outcomes after hip arthroscopy in patients with Femoroacetabular Impingement?” Here are the findings.

  • Preoperative opioid use has been shown to be a negative predictor of patient outcomes, complication rates, and resource utilization (more medical care needed) in a variety of different orthopaedic procedures.
  • A total of 22,124 patients who underwent surgery between 2011 and 2018 were ultimately included in this study.
  • Opioid prescriptions filled in the 6 months preceding surgery were assessed, and the average daily oral morphine equivalents (OMEs) in this period were computed for each patient. Patients were divided into 4 groups:
    • patients who were opioid naïve (patients who did not use opioids at least 30 days prior to their surgery)
    • patients who had more than OME per day,
    • patients who had 1 to 5 OMEs per day, and
    • patients who had more than 5 OMEs per day.
  • Postoperative 90-day complications, health care utilization, perioperative costs, postoperative opioid use, and 1- and 3-year revision rates were then compared among groups.

Overall, the percentage of preoperative opioid-naïve patients increased from 64.5% in 2011 to 78.9% in 2018. (Signaling an increase in opioid prescriptions during these years).

  • Patients who received preoperative opioids had a higher rate of complications, increased resource utilization, and increased revision rates.
  • Specifically, patients taking  more than 5 OMEs per day (compared with patients who preoperatively did not take opioids) had:
    • increased odds of a postoperative emergency department visit
    • 90-day readmission
    • increased acute postoperative opioid use
    • prolonged opioid use
    • and 3-year revision surgery

Conclusion: “A large number of patients with FAI are prescribed opioids before undergoing hip arthroscopy, and use of these pain medications is associated with increased health care utilization, increased costs, prolonged opioid use, and early revision surgery.”

Capsular plication – persistent hip pain after hip arthroscopy – the need for another arthroscopic surgery

Briefly, capsular plication is when loose tissue is folded up in the hip capsule to try to alleviate the problems of that loose tissue getting caught and impinged again. We are going to bring in the surgeons to explain this:

In the journal Arthroscopy Techniques, surgeons wrote:(47)

“The most commonly reported reasons for persistent hip pain after hip arthroscopy are residual femoroacetabular impingement, dysplasia, and dysplasia variants, or extra-articular impingement. (The outside of the hip joint such as Ischial tuberosity pain syndrome or Greater trochanteric pain syndrome.)

Capsular defects after hip arthroscopy may suggest an alteration of the biomechanical properties of the iliofemoral ligament and lead to iatrogenically (the surgery caused) induced hip instability. There are a growing number of biomechanical and clinical studies showing the importance of capsular management during hip arthroscopy.”

Kinesiophobia and Pain Catastrophizing in Outcomes After Hip Arthroscopy for Femoroacetabular Impingement Syndrome

Kinesiophobia is fear of movement, pain catastrophizing is fear of pain. You may think that these fears would be characteristic of people before surgery. Indeed they are. But they are also characteristic of people after surgery. An April 2020 study (48) from researchers at the Departments of Orthopedic Surgery, Rush University Medical Center, and Wake Forest Baptist Health, found:

“Patient kinesiophobia and pain catastrophizing both show significant improvements 1 year after undergoing hip arthroscopy for Femoroacetabular Impingement Syndrome. However, pain catastrophizing scores at 1 year are significantly greater in patients not achieving a minimal clinically important difference (outcome after surgery to before surgery. The surgery was not successful in the minds of the patient). The minimal clinically important difference, whereas no association, was identified between kinesiophobia and likelihood for Minimal clinically important difference achievement (successful surgery).”

Part 5: Ligaments, tendons, hip instability, and microinstability

In the medical journal Arthroscopy (49), doctors at the University of Rochester looked to see if femoroacetabular impingement is associated with hip instability and in what way. One thing they found was that patients suffered from frank dislocations and posterior subluxation events, the patient’s hips were frequently popping out of place.

What does this mean? It means that hip instability proceeded with the need for the bone spurs. The hip was unstable. 

In the above research, we discussed a tightening or strengthening of the hips and tendons of the hip to make physical therapy more effective in femoroacetabular impingement treatments. Ligaments and tendons are among the soft connective tissue that holds joints in their anatomically correct shape and helps the muscles and bones provide locomotion and range of motion. Ligaments hold bones to bones and tendons hold muscle to the bones.

For physical therapy to work, you need as much resistance as can be generated. Strength training is resistance training. Now, what if you do not have good resistance? For one thing, physical therapy will be less rewarding. For another, you will also have hip hypermobility, or more commonly called “instability of the hip.”

What we have documented through this research is that to treat femoroacetabular impingement you need to treat the whole hip with the goal of regenerating soft tissue to add strength and stability to the joint. Enter Prolotherapy.

Prolotherapy is the injection of simple sugar, dextrose. The idea is that dextrose injections will cause a controlled inflammatory response that will focus on strengthening and rebuilding the damaged soft tissue holding the hip in place. Strengthened soft tissue, i.e., ligaments, will stabilize the hip joint and help pull things back into place and reduce destructive joint forces in the hip.

PRP is Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy. PRP treatment re-introduces your own concentrated blood platelets into the hip area. Your blood platelets contain growth and healing factors. When concentrated through simple centrifuging, your blood plasma becomes “rich” in healing factors, thus the name Platelet RICH plasma.

  • Prolotherapy and PRP treatments would be at the early onset of the problem with an unstable hip.
  • The treatment entails doing injections in the hip and around the socket. This will help stabilize the hypermobility of the bone against the socket. PRP or stem cell therapy may be included in the tissue deep within the hip that is “shredded” or significantly damaged.
  • What is the recovery time in utilizing these treatments? That depends on how long you have had symptoms. The plus side of these injections, as opposed to FAI surgery, is that the downtime is significantly less in successful cases. FAI surgery typically would require 6 months of physical therapy afterward.
  • With our treatments, we would consider in severe cases 6 treatments at 6-week intervals. All the while, the patient would be able to train or return to work.

This is a hip procedure on a runner who has hip instability and a lot of clicking and popping in the front of the hip.

In this video, Prolotherapy treatments are demonstrated by Ross Hauser, MD:

  • This is a hip procedure on a runner who has hip instability and a lot of clicking and popping in the front of the hip.
  • This patient has a suspected labral tear and ligament injury.
  • The injections treat the anterior part of the hip which includes the hip labrum and the Greater Trochanter area, the interior portion, the gluteus minimus is treated.
  • The Greater Trochanter area is where various attachments of the ligaments and muscle tendons converge, including the gluteus medius.
  • From the front of the hip (1:05), we can treat the pubofemoral ligament and the iliofemoral ligaments.
  • From the posterior approach, I’m going to inject some proliferant within the hip joint itself, and then, of course, we’re going to do all the attachments in the posterior part of the hip and that will include the ischiofemoral ligament, the iliofemoral ligaments. We can also get the attachments of the smaller muscles  you’re obviously going to get to know some of the smaller muscles too including the Obturator, the Piriformis attachments onto the Greater Trochanter
  • Hip problems are ubiquitous, hip ligament injury or hip instability is a cause of degenerative hip disease and it’s the reason why people have to get to get hip replacements.

When Prolotherapy is considered

In the video above you will see a comprehensive Prolotherapy injection treatment for a runner with hip issues. Simply Prolotherapy is the injection of simple dextrose (sugar) into the joint to create a positive inflammatory healing response which will bring the body’s natural growth factors to the area. The simple goal of this simple treatment is to regenerate ligaments, tendons, and cartilage.

In our numerous research papers on the problems of the hip and treatment with Prolotherapy, we suggested better results in patients with some reasonable range of motion remaining, ie 50% or greater normal range of motion, then Prolotherapy works at helping with the pain and exercises like cycling and swimming will slowly allow the patient to regain some of the lost range of motion.

  • Some patients have conditions that predispose them to a lower range of motion. A person may present with 50% of normal motion in his right hip with regard to external rotation compared to his left hip, but not have any pain in the right hip. He may be able to run and continue sports with no problem, as the range of motion deficiency does not necessarily hinder sports performance or feel painful.
  • In another example, a patient has FAI and his main symptom is groin pain. The patient is a cyclist and is experiencing pain with cycling. In seeing this particular patient, we would try and determine if he truly has FAI on physical examination, looking for a positive impingement sign, and then determine the cause of it. If the cause is some tremendous structural problem with the hip like a dysmorphic problem or orientation problem of the femur, then surgical correction may be needed. However the most common cause of FAI and other premature osteoarthritic conditions is simply some type of soft tissue injury such as a ligament injury, so Prolotherapy would be realistically thought of as a better option.
  • Sometimes the patient will only achieve pain relief, which, of course, the patient is excited about. However, some sports like martial arts require not only improved pain levels but also improved range of motion. So sometimes, even though the patient is a good Prolotherapy candidate for decreasing pain levels, the patient may still need arthroscopy or some other surgical procedure to help with range of motion. It is surprising, however, the high number of patients we have seen over the years who do not really get a much-improved range of motion with surgical procedures and have supported these observations within the research above.

A November 2023 paper in the journal Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine (50) suggests that “Supervised physical therapy programs that focus on active strengthening and core strengthening are more effective than unsupervised, passive, and non-core-focused programs. There is promising evidence for the use of intra-articular hyaluronic acid and PRP as adjunct treatment options.”

PRP injection during hip arthroscopy

Some orthopedic surgeons are trying to improve their results and are utilizing PRP at the time of surgery. The thought process for this is that because capsulotomies are required for hip arthroscopy, often involving cutting through the iliofemoral ligament (the strongest ligament in the body), arthroscopy then causes an injury to the hip capsule and iliofemoral ligament, leading to iatrogenically (surgical injury) induced hip instability. Thus, the surgeons think that putting PRP into the joint could help healing.

A study published in Arthroscopy (51) released its findings after evaluating the clinical and immunologic effects of intra-articular platelet-rich plasma (PRP) in patients who underwent arthroscopic hip surgery for FAI. The patients receiving the surgery were divided into two groups: those that received an intra-articular injection of PRP and those that did not. All patients were evaluated at three, six, and 24 months after surgery. The surgeons found that patients who had received PRP had lower post-operative pain scores. It should be noted that the PRP injection was performed intra-articularly, not directly to the capsule or iliofemoral ligament. Again, the surgeon believes the problem is inside the joint so that is where they are injecting the PRP. The cause of hip pain and the x-ray and MRI findings of FAI are outside the joint. 

A November 2023 paper in the journal Arthroscopy, Sports Medicine, and Rehabilitation (52) examined if PRP injection into the hip capsule during arthroscopic surgery for Femoroacetabular Impingement Syndrome offered recovery benefits.

Three hundred and forty-five patients were divided into two groups. The first group was 293 patients who received the PRP injection, and 52 patients who did not. The patients were then monitored with standard pain, function, and disability-scoring self-reported surveys. for up to two years. The researchers reported that based on surveys and observations, “intraoperative PRP injection onto the capsule at the time of capsular closure does not improve outcomes of patients undergoing hip arthroscopy for femoroacetabular impingement syndrome.”

The researchers added to the conclusion: “The lack of effect of the PRP in these patients may have been the result of many factors, including anti-inflammatory medications taken during the postoperative period as part of multimodal pain control, dilution of the PRP within residual arthroscopic irrigation fluid, or no true effect of capsular healing by the PRP.”

An October 2023 paper in the journal Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy (53) from the American Hip Institute Research Foundation, evaluated eleven studies where 440 patients received  PRP, hyaluronic acid, or cell-based therapies during or the day after their femoroacetabular impingement syndrome surgery. “All 11 studies demonstrated an improvement in patient-reported outcomes from baseline to most recent follow-up. Four studies administered PRP either intraoperatively or the day after surgery as an adjunct to labral repair. Cell-based therapies were used intraoperatively in the setting of acetabular chondral lesions (three studies) and labral repair (one study). When compared to a control group at the most recent follow-up, three PRP cohorts demonstrated similar patient-reported outcomes, while one PRP group exhibited worse visual analog pain scores. The four cell-based therapy studies reported favorable results compared to a control group.

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