The Learning Curve for Hip Arthroscopic Surgery: A Prospective Evaluation With 2-Year Outcomes in Patients With Femoroacetabular Impingement

Orthop J Sports Med. 2020 Oct 19;8(10):2325967120959140. doi: 10.1177/2325967120959140. eCollection 2020 Oct.


Background: The use of hip arthroscopic surgery in the treatment of femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) is increasing, but it is universally known as a technically demanding procedure with a "steep" learning curve. There are limited data investigating the correlation between surgeon experience and patient-reported outcomes (PROs) as well as procedure and traction times.

Purpose: To prospectively evaluate the relationship between surgeon experience and PROs after hip arthroscopic surgery for the treatment of FAI.

Study design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 2.

Methods: A total of 190 patients undergoing primary hip arthroscopic surgery for FAI were prospectively enrolled during a sports medicine fellowship-trained surgeon's first 36 months of practice. A radiographic evaluation as well as PRO surveys including the 12-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-12), the modified Harris Hip Score (mHHS), and the Hip disability and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (HOOS) were administered preoperatively and at 2 years postoperatively. Logistic regression as well as analysis of variance was performed to evaluate for correlations between surgical experience and PROs, procedure time, and traction time.

Results: Of the 190 patients, 168 (88%; mean age, 35.3 ± 9.6 years; mean body mass index, 25.07 ± 3.98) completed a 2-year follow-up and were included for analysis. The mean procedure time was 91.5 ± 23.9 minutes, and the mean traction time was 54.0 ± 17.7 minutes. Patients demonstrated significant improvements at 2 years after surgery for all PRO scores (mHHS, HOOS, and SF-12 physical component summary; P < .001), except the SF-12 mental component summary, which had no change (P = .43). The procedure time significantly decreased after 70 cases, while the traction time continued to decrease until 110 cases (R 2 = 0.99; P < .0001). There was no correlation between increasing case volume and 2-year PRO scores (P > .2 for mHHS, HOOS, and SF-12). There was also no difference with increasing case volume and amount of improvement from preoperative to 2-year postoperative PRO scores for the SF-12 and HOOS. Case volume did not affect the complication rate, as this cohort experienced 4 minor cases of neurapraxia.

Conclusion: Surgical efficiency in hip arthroscopic surgery for the treatment of FAI was maximized after 110 cases in this cohort. However, significant PRO improvements can be achieved early in a surgeon's practice prior to maximizing surgical efficiency.

Keywords: femoroacetabular impingement; hip arthroscopic surgery; learning curve; patient-reported outcomes; traction time.