Hip Labral Tear

What is a hip labral tear?

A hip labral tear is an injury to the ring of soft elastic tissue, called the labrum, which surrounds the acetabulum (hip socket). The labrum provides stability to the hip joint. It helps keep the head of the femur (thighbone) in place and protects the joint surface.

The labrum is susceptible to injury with trauma to the hip joint. It also becomes more brittle with age, and can fray and tear as part of the aging process.

How does a hip labral tear occur?

There are two types of hip labral tears:

  • A degenerative tear is a chronic injury that occurs as a result of repetitive use and activity. Sports that include sudden twisting or pivoting motions, such as soccer, golf or hockey, can lead to joint wear and tear that ultimately results in a hip labral tear. Increased friction from osteoarthritis in the hip joint may lead to a labral tear, as well.
  • An acute tear is usually the result of direct trauma from a sports injury, fall or accident. Contact athletes, such as football players, may have added risk. The injury often occurs together with hip dislocation or partial dislocation.

What are the symptoms of a hip labral tear?

Some hip labral tears have no symptoms. When symptoms are present, they may include:

  • Radiating pain in the hip or groin
  • Locking, clicking and snapping sensations in the hip joint
  • Stiffness or limited range of motion in the hip joint
  • A feeling of instability where the hip and leg seem to give way

How is a hip labral tear diagnosed?

Because labrum cartilage is deep in the hip, it is difficult to make the diagnosis of a torn labrum with a physical examination alone. Doctors use MRI and an arthrogram (images of the hip joint after injection of a contrast dye) to confirm the diagnosis and determine the extent of the tear.

What is the treatment?

Treatment depends on the severity of your symptoms. Some hip labral tears respond well to non-surgical treatment including rest, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), physical therapy or cortisone injections.

If these conservative measures fail to alleviate pain and inflammation, arthroscopic surgery to remove or repair the torn labrum may be necessary. Arthroscopic repair of labral injuries allows surgeons a full view of the hip without having to cut through nerves or muscles. Patients experience less pain and blood loss, fewer complications and a faster recovery – in weeks rather than months.

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