Purpose: The acetabular labrum is theorized to be important to normal hip function by providing stability to distraction forces through the suction effect of the hip fluid seal. The purpose of this study was to determine the relative contributions of the hip capsule and labrum to the distractive stability of the hip, and to characterize hip stability to distraction forces in six labral conditions: intact labrum, labral tear, labral repair (looped vs. through sutures), partial resection, labral reconstruction with iliotibial band, and complete resection.
Methods: Eight cadaveric hips with a mean age of 47.8 years (SD 4.3, range 41-51 years) were included. For each condition, the hip seal was broken by distracting the hip at a rate of 0.33 mm/s while the required force, energy, and negative intra-articular pressure were measured. For comparisons between labral conditions, measurements were normalized to the intact labral state (percent of intact).
Results: The relative contribution of the labrum to distractive stability was greatest at 1 and 2 mm of displacement, where it was significantly greater than the role of the capsule and accounted for 77 % (SD 27 %, p = 0.006) and 70 % (SD 7 %, p = 0.009) of total distractive stability, respectively. The relative contribution of the capsule to distractive stability increased with progressive displacement, providing 41 % (SD 49 %) and 52 % (SD 53 %) of distractive stability at 3 and 5 mm of distraction, respectively. The maximal distraction force required to break the hip seal in the intact labral state (capsule removed) varied from 124 to 150 N. Labral tear, partial resection, and complete resection resulted in average maximal distraction forces of 76 % (SD 34 %), 29 % (SD 26 %), and 27 % (SD 22 %), respectively, compared to the intact state. Through type labral repairs resulted in significantly greater improvements (from the labral tear state) in maximal negative pressure generated, compared to looped type repairs (median increase; +32 vs. -9 %, p = 0.029). Labral reconstruction resulted in a mean maximal distraction force of 66 % (SD 35 %), with a significant improvement of 37 % compared to partial labral resection (p < 0.001).
Conclusion: The acetabular labrum was the primary hip stabilizer to distraction forces at small displacements (1-2 mm). Partial labral resection significantly decreased the distractive strength of the hip fluid seal. Labral reconstruction significantly improved distractive stability, compared to partial labral resection. The results of this study may provide insight into the relative importance of the capsule and labrum to distractive stability of the hip and may help to explain hip microinstability in the setting of labral disease.