The acetabular labrum is a structure attached to the outside rim of the hip socket. This labrum is made of fibrous cartilage, a flexible material present in multiple joints of the body. In the hip, the labrum is thought to act as a gasket, keeping fluid in the joint during the normal loading of the joint that occurs with movement. It also acts as a stabilizer of the joint keeping the head seated in the socket.
Causes of Labral Tears
Various conditions can lead to damage of this labrum. These include traumatic events, degenerative conditions over time, as well as situations where the shape of the hip bones is incorrect. Traumatic events leading to labral tears can occur with multiple activities including motor vehicle accidents as well as common trips and falls. Degenerative labral tears are a component of generalized hip degeneration where the cartilage throughout the hip joint becomes rough and torn.
Conditions where the shape of the hip bones is incorrect are currently falling under the term hip impingement. These conditions involve improper shape of the hip socket, junction of the thigh bone head and neck, and more commonly a combination of both. This improper shape causes the labrum to be pinched or rubbed during normal movement leading to tearing and degeneration.
Treatment of Labral Tears
Treatment of labral tears involves repairing tissue if possible and removing the tissue that is too severely torn. Attention is then directed at correcting any bony abnormalities that have caused the labral tear in the first place. This is usually possible with hip arthroscopy, but may require more invasive procedures to correctly address the underlying bony problem.
Read our answers to Frequently Asked Questions about hip impingement and labral tears.