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Improved Technology Helps Physicians Diagnose Hip Problems

Posted on: 11/30/1999
Imaging technology continues to improve doctors' ability to find out what's wrong with painful joints. Early treatment can help prevent other problems from developing. In this article, Dr. McCarthy reviews the kinds of joint damage found using arthroscopy. He reports on conditions that doctors didn't know even existed 10 years ago.

Patients with painful hip symptoms often have normal X-rays and MRIs. Bone scans don't show anything either. Conservative treatment often doesn’t work. Tears of the cartilage inside the joint and tears of the labrum (rim of cartilage around the socket) can occur. These kinds of problems as well as damage to the cartilage over the bone are called intraarticular lesions. They can be seen using an arthroscope.

The scope is a long needle inserted into the joint. A tiny TV camera on the end of this tool gives the physician a clear view inside the joint. Patients with intraarticular tears often have a telltale catching, locking, or buckling of the hip joint. They also have severe, disabling pain.

The authors conclude that arthroscopy has made it possible to treat a list of hip conditions previously untreatable. The list continues to grow as the use of arthroscopy for painful hips increases. Arthroscopy not only shows what's wrong, it gives the surgeon a way to correct the problem at the same time.

Joseph C. McCarthy, MD, and Jo-Ann Lee, MS. Arthroscopic Intervention in Early Hip Disease. In Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research. December 2004. Vol. 429. Pp. 157-162.

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