Overview

What Is a Labral Tear in the Hip (Acetabular)

What Is a Labral Tear in the Hip (Acetabular)

A labral tear in the hip is an injury to the labrum, which is the gristle-like lining around the rim of the hip socket (acetabulum). It helps to stabilize the joint while also allowing flexibility and motion.

Causes of Labral Tears

Labral tears can be caused by trauma, hip abnormalities, and/or repetitive motion. Developmental hip abnormalities that predispose a person to labral tears include:

  • hip dysplasia,
  • Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease, and
  • slipped capital femoral epiphysis.

Damage from labral tears can lead to labral degeneration, detachment, and tears. 

Types of Labral Tears

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Labral degeneration is seen in hips where the labrum has seen too much stress over a long period of time (one to five years). The labrum frequently has damage that can include fraying, overall breakdown over a large area, and/or a cyst forming inside it. In classic dysplasia the labrum frequently thickens and then breaks down. In retroversion the labrum frequently thins and gets frayed. 

Labral detachment is very commonly seen with FAI as a result of the femur forcing its way into the socket. The labrum can also frequently be detached from the rim of the acetabulum and the underlying articular cartilage. 

Labral tear, which is more uncommon for us to see within the substance of the labrum; this type of tear can do well with hip arthroscopy if there is no underlying bony abnormalities.

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Symptoms

A tear of the labrum causes these symptoms:

  • Sharp pain in the front of the hip, sometimes shooting down the thigh
  • A catching or giving way sensation in the hip

These symptoms can occur when you are changing the position of your hip. They can be due to an underlying anatomic hip abnormality or, less commonly, a twisting injury or injuries.

Since a torn labrum not only causes pain and instability but also disturbs function of the hip and predisposes to arthritis, you should have a labral tear treated both to prevent arthritis and to improve symptoms.