What is a hip block?
A hip block is an injection into the hip joint itself. A combination of a synthetic steroid and a local anaesthetic is injected into the joint. The local anaesthetic will reduce pain coming from the hip fairly rapidly and the steroid will act locally to reduce inflammation in the area and significantly reduce pain.
Why do I need a hip block?
Hip blocks are a useful adjuvant in the treatment of relatively early osteoarthritis of the hip particularly where the symptoms are not yet severe enough to justify a replacement or resurfacing. A hip block is also a very useful tool to help the surgeon decide whether the pain is coming from the hip or the back.
What does it involve?
A hip block is usually done as a day case procedure, where you are admitted on the morning or afternoon of the procedure and have it done under X-ray control in day theatres. Patients are often happy to have this done with no anaesthetic, although they will feel a slight jab and some discomfort in the groin for a minute or two. Some patients prefer to have sedation with an Anaesthetist providing this. You will be offered either alternative. The advantage of having no anaesthetic is that other than some discomfort, you make a rapid recovery and will not have any potential side effects, such as nausea.
How many hip blocks can I have?
There is no strong consensus amongst surgeons, but generally patients would be unlikely to be offered more than three hip blocks a year. If more hip blocks were needed, it would suggest that the patient may require a definitive replacement type surgery.
What are the complications?
A hip block is a safe procedure performed in theatres under X-ray control. There is a very small risk of introducing an infection into the hip joint which is kept to an absolute minimum by performing the procedure in an aseptic technique. Immediate complications may include some discomfort in your groin which can last for a day or two but not usually. The steroid acts locally and will not have systemic side effects seen in patients for example, take steroid tablets over a prolonged time.
What are the results of a hip block?
Hip blocks are very effective in early arthritis but on occasion, some patients do not respond we would wish. The length of pain relief is variable and unpredictable, but the majority of patients have considerable relief for between three to six months.
What about after the block?
After the block you will be free to go home as soon as you have recovered from your sedation if any was required. I would advise that somebody else ought to drive you home and you ought to have a quiet day or two following the procedure avoiding any strenuous walking, etc.