When you do research on FAI surgery, you often come across numbers that sound spectacular. You find claims that hip surgery for FAI is about 80% effective in curing your hip pain.
If this number were correct, surgery for FAI would make a lot of sense. Why suffer with hip pain, clicking, and snapping when you can just do a surgery and be 100% back to normal? Everyone wants to be able to move well, play sports, and enjoy their daily lives, right?
The real success rate of surgery for femoral acetabular impingement is unfortunately nowhere near 80%.
A study published in January of 2013 investigated the relationship between patient expectations and hip surgery and overall satisfaction. In it, they looked at people’s goals for hip surgery (pain relief, improved mobility, etc.) and their satisfaction with the outcomes of surgery after 12 months. At the time of this study, hip surgery for FAI was being lauded as being highly effective - in the range of 90%.
The study’s results included 86 patients. The top 3 reasons for the hip surgery across all the patients was pain reduction, fear of worsening, improvement in performance of everyday activities.
50% of patients did not have their expectations met for hip pain, sport, and general physical capacity. 34-46% were disappointed in terms of independence, mental well-being, and walking capacity.
This chart, provided in the study, gives you a very clear illustration of how the surgical outcomes compared with the patients’ expectations. “Expectation not met” means that the outcome the patient hoped for simply did not happen.
The three most relevant numbers there, in my mind, are the ones for hip pain, walking capacity, and sport. The improvement that patients were hoping for simply did not materialize.
These numbers shows that roughly one third of the patients felt like the surgery was a big help. Another third felt like it helped “some.” And the other third ranged from worse (luckily a small percentage) to getting only a minor amount of help.
The big takeaway here can be found in the conclusion of the study: “Expectations of surgery were overly optimistic.”
Research like this is important as it indicates that something is wrong with the entire notion of hip surgery for FAI.
The theory is that hip immobility is a problem with the bones and that surgery to correct the bone shapes will drastically improve the situation. But studies like this show that the theory is flawed.
As mentioned in many other posts, a preponderance of good research published in the last several years seems to indicate that hip pain issues are not actually caused by FAI bone shapes. This means orthopedic "cures" for hip pain should be revisited and revised.
If your hips are popping, snapping, or aching and you’re looking for an alternative to surgery, you’ll be interested in our do it yourself online program. The FAI Fix is designed to help you systematically address a wide variety of hip issues so that you can move your hips better and get back to enjoying your life. It's not about bone shapes. It's not about injections or numbing agents. It's about training the muscles of your hips to do what they should be able to do!