Radiographic Diagnosis of Pincer-Type Femoroacetabular Impingement: A Systematic Review

Orthop J Sports Med. 2017 May 31;5(5):2325967117708307. doi: 10.1177/2325967117708307. eCollection 2017 May.


Background: Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) is a well-recognized condition that causes hip pain and can lead to early osteoarthritis if not managed properly. With the increasing awareness and efficacy of operative treatments for pincer-type FAI, there is a need for consensus on the standardized radiographic diagnosis.

Purpose: To perform a systematic review of the evidence regarding imaging modalities and radiographic signs for diagnosing pincer-type FAI.

Study design: Systematic review; Level of evidence, 4.

Methods: A literature review was performed in 2016 using the Cochrane, PubMed, and Embase search engines. All articles focusing on a radiographic diagnosis of pincer-type FAI were reviewed. Each of the included 44 articles was assigned the appropriate level of evidence, and the particular radiographic marker and/or type of imaging were also summarized.

Results: There were 44 studies included in the final review. Most of the articles were level 4 evidence (26 articles), and there were 12 level 3 and 6 level 2 articles. The crossover sign was the most commonly used radiographic sign (27/44) followed by the lateral center-edge angle (22/44). Anteroposterior (AP) pelvis plain radiographs were the most commonly used imaging modality (33 studies). Poor-quality evidence exists in support of most currently used radiographic markers, including the crossover sign, lateral center-edge angle, posterior wall sign, ischial spine sign, coxa profunda, acetabular protrusion, and acetabular index. There is poor-quality conflicting evidence regarding the use of the herniation pit to diagnose pincer-type FAI. Some novel measurements, such as β-angle, acetabular roof ratio, and acetabular retroversion index, have been proposed, but they also lack support from the literature.

Conclusion: No strong evidence exists to support a single best set of current radiographic markers for the diagnosis of pincer-type FAI, largely due to the lack of better quality trials (levels 1 and 2) that compare conventional radiographic findings with the gold standard, which is the intraoperative findings. More sophisticated imaging modalities such as computed tomography and magnetic resonance arthrography are often needed to diagnose pincer-type FAI, and these investigations are relatively accurate in assessing labral pathology or cartilage damage.

Keywords: femoroacetabular impingement (FAI); hip impingement; pincer impingement; radiographic diagnosis.

Publication types

  • Review