The hip joint is one of the largest weight-bearing joints in the body, formed by the thighbone (femur) and the acetabulum of the pelvis. It is a ball and socket joint with the head of the femur as the ball and the pelvic acetabulum forming the socket. The joint surface is covered by a smooth articular cartilage, which acts as a cushion and enables smooth movements of the joint.
What are Chondral Lesions or Injuries?
A chondral injury refers to an injury of the articular cartilage of the hip.
Causes of Chondral Lesions or Injuries
Chondral injuries can result from various hip conditions such as labral tears, loose bodies, posterior dislocation, slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE), dysplasia, osteonecrosis, and degenerative arthritis.
The articular cartilage covering the hip joint can also be damaged by a direct blow to the outer region of the thigh. Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) can also cause chondral injuries. This is a condition characterized by excessive friction in the hip joint, causing pain and decreased range of motion. The femoral head and acetabulum rub against each other, eventually causing damage to the cartilage.
Symptoms of Chondral Lesions or Injuries
You may experience:
- Severe pain in the hip or groin
- Locking sensation in the hip joint
- Significant restriction in hip movement
Physical examination may also reveal a noticeable limp.
Diagnosis of Chondral Lesions or Injuries
Diagnosis of chondral injuries involves a thorough medical history and a physical examination by your doctor. In addition to this, X-rays and MRI scans are also useful in diagnosing these types of injuries. However, arthroscopy is the most accurate method of diagnosing, evaluating and managing chondral injuries.
Treatments for Chondral Lesions or Injuries
The management of chondral injuries depends on the severity of the injury and includes non-surgical and surgical modalities of treatment. Non-surgical treatment includes a healthy diet, regular exercise, and avoidance of aggravating activities.
Arthroscopic Surgery to Treat Chondral Lesions and Injuries
Arthroscopic surgery is performed to treat chondral injuries when non-surgical options are ineffective and pain persists.
Hip arthroscopy, also referred to as keyhole surgery or minimally invasive surgery, is a surgical procedure that employs an arthroscope, a narrow tube with a tiny camera attached on the end, to assess damage to the hip. Your surgeon makes 2 to 3 small incisions around the hip joint. The arthroscope is inserted through one of the incisions and the camera attached to the arthroscope helps visualize the joint on a monitor. A sterile solution is pumped into the joint to clear the view and increase the space for surgery.
Specially designed instruments are inserted through the other incisions. During the surgery, any loose fragments, small pieces of bone and cartilage floating within the joint are removed. After the completion of the procedure, the arthroscope is removed and incisions are closed.
The arthroscopic surgeries that may be recommended to manage chondral injuries include:
- Microfracture surgery: This technique to treat chondral injuries involves stimulating the formation of new articular cartilage by drilling numerous tiny holes in the bone underneath the damaged cartilage. This results in the formation of blood clots within the damaged cartilage, which stimulates the growth of new cartilage known as fibrocartilage. Although the fibrocartilage formed is different from the normal hyaline cartilage, it can provide significant improvement in your symptoms.
- Autologous cartilage implantation (ACI): In this procedure, the cartilage, harvested from your own body or a cadaver is cultured and later implanted over the damaged area of the joint.
- Matrix-induced autologous chondrocyte implantation (MACI): This technique employs cultured chondrocytes (the cells that produce the cartilage) to repair the articular cartilage damage. These chondrocytes are inserted onto a layer of collagen, which is then implanted over the damaged area of the joint.
Postoperative Care following Surgery to Treat Chondral Lesions
Following the surgery, your doctor will instruct you on the care of your incision, activities to be avoided and exercise programs that will help hasten recovery. Physical therapy will be recommended to restore strength and mobility to the hip joint. You may also be prescribed medications to relieve pain.
Risks and Complications of Surgery to Treat Chondral Lesions
The possible risks and complications specific to arthroscopic hip surgery include:
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- Blood vessel or nerve damage
- Hemarthrosis (bleeding inside the joint)
- Failure to relieve pain