Hip labrum surgery is a medical procedure that repairs or replaces a torn labrum in the hip joint. The success rate for this surgery is high in most people.

The hip labrum is a crescent-shaped piece of soft, elastic cartilage that lines the rim of the hip socket. The main function of the hip labrum is to stabilize the hip joint.

Hip arthroscopy is the most commonly performed procedure as it is less invasive than open hip surgery.

A torn hip labrum can occur due to repetitive motion in the hip joint, injury, or other health conditions of the hip.

This article discusses different types of hip labrum surgery and what to expect from the procedure, as well as the benefits, risks, and recovery.

A collage of a surgeon and the legs of a person running. Hip labrum tears can result from exercise, which may need surgery.Share on Pinterest
Design by MNT; Photography by XiXinXing/Getty Images & Stefania Pelfini, La Waziya Photography/Getty Images

The most common procedure for hip labrum surgery is hip arthroscopy. It is a minimally invasive procedure in which a surgeon can examine the inside of the hip joint.

On most occasions, a person can undergo a hip arthroscopy as an outpatient. Other benefits of hip arthroscopy include:

  • limiting trauma to the joint, which minimizes hip pain and scarring
  • reducing the risk of infection
  • reducing complications
  • decreasing recovery time

The cost of hip arthroscopy is, on average, $4,000–$8,000. This may vary depending on the state, amount of pain relievers, type of walking aids, or any additional imaging services a person may need.

A health insurance provider may cover hip labrum surgery. This will depend on the healthcare plan a person has. An individual should check with their insurance provider before undergoing any surgery.

A torn hip labrum typically occurs due to wear and tear of the hip joint or a traumatic injury. A person with other health conditions of the hip, such as hip impingement, hip osteoarthritis, and congenital hip abnormalities, can also be prone to a torn hip labrum.

A doctor may first advise some nonsurgical treatments for a person, including:

If nonsurgical treatments fail to alleviate the symptoms of a torn hip labrum, a doctor may advise hip labrum surgery.

Before hip arthroscopy surgery, a surgeon will administer general or local anesthesia to prevent a person from feeling any pain.

Hip arthroscopy surgery involves the following steps:

  1. A person’s leg will first be put in traction. This means the surgeon pulls the hip away from the socket to enable them to insert instruments.
  2. The surgeon will make two or three small incisions, typically one-quarter to one-half inch in length, into the skin above the hip joint.
  3. The surgeon will insert a pencil-sized instrument known as an arthroscope into one of the incisions and position it into the joint.
  4. An arthroscope is a fiber optic tool with a light and camera lens at the tip. This allows the surgeon to broadcast live images of the inside of the hip joint onto a monitor to accurately navigate the joint.
  5. Once the arthroscope is in place, the surgeon will insert small metal or plastic anchors into the rim of the joint socket. The surgeon will then weave a sterile thread through the anchors, and around the labrum. This secures the labrum firmly back into position.
  6. There may be too much damage to the hip labrum to perform a repair. If so, the surgeon may reconstruct the damaged labrum using healthy tissue from elsewhere or by removing a small piece of the labral tissue.
  7. Once the surgeon has completed the labrum repair, they will remove the arthroscope and other instruments before sealing the incisions with non-dissolvable stitches or surgical tape strips.

Surgery typically lasts for 50–180 minutes, although it can take longer.

Preparing for hip arthroscopy surgery can help make a person’s recovery quicker and easier. Some of the ways a person can prepare for their surgery include:

  • doing preoperative exercises to help maintain muscle tone and overall function
  • getting a prior explanation of a postoperative exercise regimen and recovery process
  • practicing crutch walking
  • discussing activity modifications
  • discussing pain relief medications

Click here to read more about exercises and stretches for hip pain.

The speed of recovery from hip labrum surgery will depend on the individual. A number of factors may affect a person’s recovery, including:

  • age
  • prior physical fitness
  • the severity of the injury
  • the type of surgery

An individual may experience some pain following hip arthroscopy, as the irritated lining of the joint heals. Healthcare professionals usually prescribe pain relief medications, such as:

A person may need to use a pair of crutches or walking aids following surgery for 1–2 months. Sometimes, a person only needs them until they stop limping.

A person may also want to consider physical therapy to strengthen the hip joint and improve mobility

In most people, the success rate of hip labrum surgery is high. This can vary depending on the severity of the injury.

Many people return to their usual activities after hip arthroscopy. However, some people may need to make lifestyle changes to protect their joints. This could mean switching from high-impact exercises, such as running, to low-impact exercises, such as swimming.

A 2021 systematic review examined the mid- to long-term patient-reported outcomes (PROs) of 1571 patients who had undergone hip arthroscopy surgery. All of the patients demonstrated improvement in PROs at their latest follow-up.

In some people, it is possible that a repeat procedure may be necessary. The above study mentions that people most often cited osteoarthritis and older age as predictors for secondary surgery.

Complications from hip arthroscopy are uncommon, but all surgical procedures have risks. These include:

  • Infection: Although rare, infections can be very serious. If the hip joint becomes infected, a person may need further surgical procedures and may have an increased risk of developing arthritis.
  • Blood clots (DVT): Blood clots in the legs and lungs are very rare but extremely serious. A surgeon may recommend blood thinners, compression socks, and early mobilization following surgery.
  • Retained surgical instruments: Very rarely, a surgical instrument may break in the joint during surgery.
  • Nerve damage: Although rare, there is the possibility of damage to the nerves or blood vessels or a fracture of the bone during hip labrum surgery.
  • Swelling: A person may experience swelling in the affected leg. Although a person can expect some swelling, they should contact a doctor immediately if they experience excess swelling, pain, or redness in the calf.
  • Traction: Occasionally, a person can experience pain or numbness in the groin area due to traction of the leg in hip labrum surgery. This usually resolves within a few weeks.
  • Anesthesia: As with any surgery that involves anesthesia, there are a number of risks involved. A surgeon will discuss these risks with an individual before the procedure.

Open hip surgery, or open surgical dislocation, is another type of procedure surgeons use to repair a torn or damaged hip labrum. However, surgeons perform this less commonly than hip arthroscopy, as it is more invasive.

The procedure requires surgeons to create a much longer incision than in hip arthroscopy. Surgeons then remove a piece of the femur bone and dislocate the hip. While more invasive, this procedure allows surgeons to fully see the hip joint and repair any damage.

People undergoing open hip surgery can expect to spend 1–3 nights in the hospital and use crutches for at least 4–6 weeks.

A 2016 meta-analysis compared the efficacy and safety of arthroscopy and open surgical dislocation using data from surgery on 352 hips.

Compared with open surgical dislocation, arthroscopy resulted in significant improvements in non-arthritic hip scores (NAHS) at 3- and 12-month follow-ups. NAHS measures the level of pain and stiffness in a person’s hips.

The study also found that hip arthroscopy resulted in a significantly lower reoperation rate.

Learn more about the causes of outer hip pain.

In people who undergo unsuccessful hip arthroscopy or experience hip degeneration following surgery, a person may require a total hip replacement.

Hip replacement surgery, or total hip arthroplasty, involves removing damaged hip bone and cartilage and replacing it with metal or ceramic implants. In most instances, surgeons will replace the ball and socket hip joint. The ball is at the top of the femur — or thigh — bone, and the socket is in the pelvis.

A large closed-cohort study found that the most important risk factor for conversion from hip arthroscopy to total hip arthroplasty within 2 years was a person’s age. The risk increased substantially as patients got older, with a particularly increased association for people ages 50 and over.

The risk of complications with hip replacement surgery is low. However, the risk increases when preexisting chronic illness is present. Complications can include leg length discrepancy, where one leg is shorter than the other following surgery, and limping.

Learn more about what to expect from hip replacement recovery.

Hip labrum surgery describes a medical procedure used to repair or replace a torn labrum in the hip joint.

The most common form of surgery for a torn hip labrum is hip arthroscopy. This is a minimally invasive procedure in which a person can typically go home the same day.

The success rate of hip arthroscopy is high, although older people and those with osteoarthritis may be more at risk of needing a repeat procedure.

Open hip surgery is a more invasive procedure, and studies suggest people who undergo this surgery show less significant improvements in pain and stiffness than those who have hip arthroscopy.