Acetabular Labral Tear
What is the acetabular labrum?
The acetabular labrum is a tough cartilage which attaches to the rim of the hip joint socket. The labrum deepens the socket and assists in the stability, lubrication and sensation of the hip joint.
What causes acetabular labral tears?
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 is often made worse with physical activity and positions where the hip is bent, such as deep squatting or rising from a low chair. The symptoms may have been present for a long time, and thought to represent 'recurrent groin sprains'. Some patients experience 'mechanical' symptoms such as catching or unpredictable 'weakness' of the hip joint.
Are there any other associated injuries?
Patients who have developed a degenerate labral tear may also have associated damage to the adjacent gliding surface (hyaline) cartilage of the hip joint socket. Sometimes small cysts form around the hip joint as a result of the acetabular labral tear. Patients who have an 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 accumulating damage.
What treatment is available?
Many patients with early hip joint damage can manage their symptoms without requiring surgery (see down-loadable brochure below). For persistent symptoms or significant traumatic injury, acetabular labral tears can often be accurately evaluated and 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.
This information has been written by Dr Patrick Weinrauch for the purposes of patient education. The details provided are of general nature only and do not substitute for professional recommendations based an individual clinical assessment.