The safe zone for hip arthroscopy: a cadaveric assessment of central, peripheral, and lateral compartment portal placement

Arthroscopy. 2008 Sep;24(9):1019-26. doi: 10.1016/j.arthro.2008.05.008. Epub 2008 Jun 24.


Purpose: This study evaluated 11 arthroscopic portals (4 central, 4 peripheral, and 3 peritrochanteric) with regard to their proximity to neurovascular structures and the extra-articular path taken before entering their intended compartments.

Methods: We established 11 standard portals in 10 cadaveric hips, under arthroscopic and fluoroscopic visualization, using 3/16-inch Steinmann pins. Each hip was dissected, and the relation of the pins to the pertinent anatomy was recorded to the nearest 1 mm.

Results: Only 2 of the 11 portals, the anterior and midanterior portals, came within 2 cm of a neurovascular structure before entering their respective compartments. The anterior portal placed the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve at risk, lying at a mean of 15.4 mm (range, 1 to 28 mm) away. The midanterior portal lies a mean of 19.2 mm (range, 5 to 42 mm) from the ascending branch of the lateral circumflex femoral artery. In addition, a small terminal branch of this artery courses a mean of 14.7 mm (range, 2 to 33 mm) and 10.1 mm (range, 1 to 23 mm) from the anterior portal and midanterior portal, respectively.

Conclusions: This study showed that 11 arthroscopic portals can be safely inserted into the central, peripheral, and peritrochanteric compartments of the hip. The midanterior and anterior portals pass in close proximity to a small terminal branch of the ascending lateral circumflex femoral artery. The greatest risk still comes from the proximity of the anterior portal to the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve. However, a slightly more lateral location seems to provide substantial benefits.

Clinical relevance: This study investigated 11 arthroscopic hip portals inserted in a standardized fashion. This knowledge should help surgeons place the necessary portals both safely and accurately.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthroscopy / methods*
  • Cadaver
  • Femoral Nerve / anatomy & histology
  • Femoral Nerve / injuries
  • Hip / anatomy & histology*
  • Hip Joint / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Iatrogenic Disease / prevention & control
  • Middle Aged
  • Traction / methods