Hip labral (labrum) tears

Patients with hip pain may end up getting an MRI which shows a labral (labrum) tear. Inevitably I get asked “What is that? I’ve never heard of it before.”

Most labral tears are not associated with a traumatic onset. Running, sprinting, and frequent rotation of the hip while playing sports is thought to result in tears of the labrum. Bony structural risk factors include hip dysplasia and femoroacetabular impingement (FAI). Clinical assessment including history, physical, and radiographic analysis is 98% accurate in determining the presence of an abnormality within the hip joint. MRI with contrast injected into the hip joint(arthrography) is 65-90% sensitive for detecting labral tears. Relief of pain (lidocaine pain test) from an intraarticular anesthetic injection at the time of arthrography is very suggestive of intraarticular abnormalities and is useful in predicting improvement with arthroscopic intervention, particularly in patients with normal imaging exams.

Signs and Symptoms
In greater than 90% of patients with labral tears, pain is reported in the anterior hip or groin region. Less often pain occurs in the lateral or posterior hip region. Patients may also report clicking, catching, locking, or giving away. Range of motion restrictions in flexion, internal rotation, and/or figure four position may be noted. Provocative tests include the anterior impingement test of flexion, internal rotation, and adduction. A positive test causes pain in the groin and restricted motion. Pain in the joint with a resisted straight leg raise may be indicative of a labral tear.

Unfortunately the labrum does not heal on its own if it is torn. The goak of non-operative treatment is to reduce the symptoms. If non-operative methods fail, surgical intervention of labral tears may be performed open or arthroscopically. The labrum can be debrided (cleaned-up) and/or repaired with suture anchors. Histologic studies have shown potential for labral healing. Conservative treatment may include limited weight bearing, NSAIDS, and avoidance of pivoting motions on the hip. Physical therapy can improve muscle recruitment to control hip motion.

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