Magnetic resonance imaging of the hip: detection of labral and chondral abnormalities using noncontrast imaging

Arthroscopy. 2005 Apr;21(4):385-93. doi: 10.1016/j.arthro.2004.12.011.


Purpose: Traditional imaging techniques have limited ability to detect subtle chondral and labral injuries of the hip. We performed a retrospective review of patients who underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the hip and subsequent hip arthroscopy in order to evaluate the ability of optimized, noncontrast MRI to identify tears of the acetabular labrum and defects in articular cartilage.

Type of study: Retrospective review of a consecutive sample.

Methods: Between January 1997 and July 2000, 92 patients had MRI of the hip, followed by arthroscopic surgery of that hip by 1 of 2 surgeons (R.B., D.E.P.). Two musculoskeletal MR radiologists blinded to the initial MRI and surgical findings, independently interpreted the studies, looking for the location and degree of articular cartilage and acetabular labral pathology.

Results: Of the 92 patients studied, each of 2 radiologists correctly identified 83 (94%) and 84 (95%) of the 88 labral tears present at surgery, respectively. There was 92% interobserver agreement on the MRI studies. For articular cartilage defects on the femoral head and acetabulum, there was good agreement (92% and 86% within 1 grade) between MRI and surgical grading and between the 2 MR readers (kappa of 0.8 for femoral head cartilage and 0.7 for acetabular cartilage).

Conclusions: This study shows that noncontrast MRI of the hip, using an optimized protocol, can noninvasively identify labral and chondral pathology. Such information may facilitate deciding which patients warrant surgical intervention, thus preserving hip arthroscopy as a therapeutic tool.

Level of evidence: Level II, Development of Diagnostic Criteria Study.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acetabulum / injuries
  • Acetabulum / pathology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthroscopy / methods*
  • Cartilage / injuries
  • Cartilage / pathology*
  • Cartilage, Articular / injuries
  • Cartilage, Articular / pathology*
  • Connective Tissue / injuries
  • Connective Tissue / pathology
  • Female
  • Hip Joint / pathology*
  • Hip Joint / surgery
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Observer Variation
  • Sensitivity and Specificity