Purpose: To establish if a positive impingement sign in femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) may result from entrapment of the fat pad located at the anterior head-neck junction of the upper femur. This fat pad is routinely removed before any cam lesion excision.
Methods: We report a prospective study of 142 consecutive hip arthroscopies for symptomatic FAI where the aim was to remove the arthroscopically identified area of impingement, not necessarily to create a spherical femoral head. Patients were divided into two groups. Group 1 (n = 92; 34 females, 58 males), where a cam-type bony FAI lesion was identified and excised in addition to the fat pad which overlay it, and Group 2 (n = 50; 29 females, 21 males) where the only identified point of impingement was a prominent fat pad. In this situation the fat pad was excised in isolation and the underlying bone preserved. Patients were assessed preoperatively, at six weeks, six months, one year and two years with a modified Harris hip score (mHHS).
Results: Both groups were comparable preoperatively for mean age, mean alpha angle and mean anterior offset ratio. Both groups improved significantly after surgery at all time points. However, Group 1 (fat pad and bone resection) demonstrated 16.0% improvement in mHHS by two years while for Group 2 (fat pad resection only) the improvement was 18.9% (p = 0.628).
Conclusions: The fat pad found at the anterior head/neck junction of the hip joint can be a source of pain and we propose fat pad entrapment as a new, previously undescribed diagnosis. Our findings also suggest that a large number of cam lesions are being excised unnecessarily and that further efforts should be made to understand the role of the fat pad as a source of groin discomfort.
Level of evidence: Level IV, case series.