Acetabular Labral Tear

What is the acetabular labrum?

The acetabular labrum is a ring of cartilage that surrounds the acetabulum (the socket of the hip joint). Its function is to deepen the acetabulum and assist in the stability, lubrication and sensation of the hip joint.  Put simply, it makes it more difficult for the head of the femur to slip out of place (sublux).

 

What causes the acetabular labrum to tear?

Acetabular labral tears generally occur in two situations. Tears can occur as a result of traumatic injury to the hip joint. More commonly however, tears may occur in a labral cartilage which has gradually accumulated damage over time; this is known as a ‘degenerate tear’. Degenerate labral tears develop as a part of hip joint osteoarthritis, or may be related to other hip joint disorders such as developmental dysplasia or femoro-acetabular impingement (FAI).

 

What are the symptoms?

Patients with acetabular labral tears commonly experience groin pain, which often getsworsewith physical activity and positions where the hip is bent, such as deep squatting or rising from a low chair. Symptoms are often present for a long time.. Some patients experience ‘mechanical’ symptoms such as catching or unpredictable ‘weakness’ of the hip joint.

 

Are there associated injuries?

Patients with a degenerate labral tear may also have associated damage to the adjacent cartilage of the hip joint socket. Sometimes small cysts form around the hip joint as a result of the tear. Patients who have a structural cause for their degenerate labral tear (such as dysplasia or femoro-acetabular impingement) have an underlying abnormality in the shape of the hip joint which has pre-disposed the labrum to damage.

 

What treatment is available?

Many patients with early damage can manage their symptoms without requiring surgery. For persistent symptoms or significant traumatic injury, acetabular labral tears can often be successfully treated with hip arthroscopy (key hole surgery). For patients with a structural abnormality of the hip joint, consideration should be made to correcting the underlying cause for the labral tear.