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As a major ball-and-socket joint, your hip is composed of two main bones - the femur (the thigh bone) and the acetabulum (the bone that makes up the socket portion of the joint). It's held in place by a supportive network of connective tissues, including a fibrous ring of cartilage called the labrum, which helps hold the ball in the socket. The labrum is subjected to a lot of wear and tear when you move your hip, and sometimes, it can become torn or damaged, either from trauma or repetitive use. The result: Hip joint pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion that can significantly limit your mobility. Sometimes, a tear or other damage can be repaired with sutures. But when damage is significant, the labrum may need to be reconstructed using grafts.

What causes hip labrum damage?

The labrum is very strong. Most damage occurs as a result of either repetitive use or a traumatic injury from a car accident, sports injury or fall, and it can also be damaged if your hip is malformed. In other cases, a portion of the labrum may have been removed during a prior hip surgery, and reconstruction helps rebuild the labrum to restore stability, strength and normal range of motion in the joint.

What happens during a hip labral reconstruction surgery?

Hip labral reconstruction uses grafts to repair significant damage to the labrum, essentially rebuilding portions of the labrum so the hip functions normally again. The grafts may be taken from a donor hip or they may be taken from another area of your body. Often, a portion of the iliotibial band - the strong ligament that connects your hip to your shin - can be used to repair the labrum. Dr. Van Thiel will determine which approach is best for you.

The reconstruction surgery uses a minimally-invasive technique called hip arthroscopy, which relies on small incisions to access the joint. One incision is used to admit an arthroscope, a special instrument that's attached to a tiny camera. The camera lets Dr. Van Thiel see the inside of the joint, eliminating the need for large incisions through muscles and other tissues. Hip arthroscopy is associated with less postop discomfort, fewer complications and a faster recovery period.

Once the incisions are made, the hip socket is “cleaned up” and damaged tissue and debris are removed. Depending on your symptoms, the femoral head (the ball portion of the joint) or the rim of the socket may be smoothed down as well. Then the graft is put in place and secured to the rim of the socket using special plugs or pegs. Over time, the graft will fuse with the surrounding labral tissue to form a continuous, stable band.

After your surgery, you'll need to use crutches for about two weeks, and you may be given a brace to wear for up to six weeks. Your activity (including sitting) will be limited during recovery, with a gradual return to normal activity over about two to three months. And of course, you'll work closely with a physical therapist to regain strength and mobility in your hip.

Learn about options to treat your hip pain.

Hip pain can be caused by different underlying conditions, and having a medical evaluation by an experienced orthopedic surgeon is the first step toward ensuring you receive the most appropriate and most effective treatment. Dr. Geoffrey Van Thiel is a recognized authority on hip pain treatment, with significant experience in hip labral tear procedures and other surgical interventions. At his Chicago-area practice Dr. Van Thiel helps patients of all ages overcome joint pain and other symptoms so they can get back to the activities they love. To find out what's causing your hip pain - and how to relieve it - call OrthoIllinois at and schedule a consultation with Dr. Van Thiel today.

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