Since January 1993 we have carried out MR arthrography on 23 patients with clinical symptoms and signs of abnormality of the acetabular labrum. Most of the patients were young adults. Such symptoms are known precursors of osteoarthritis, and therefore early and accurate evaluation is required. We assessed the value of MR arthrography of the hip as a minimally-invasive diagnostic technique, in a prospective study and compared the findings with those at subsequent operations. All the patients complained of groin pain; 22 had a positive acetabular impingement test and 15 had radiological evidence of hip dysplasia. In 21 of the patients, MR arthrography suggested either degeneration or a tear of the labrum or both. These findings were confirmed at operation in 18 patients, but there was no abnormality of the labrum in the other three. In two of the patients, MR arthrography erroneously suggested an intact labrum. Both MR arthrography and intraoperative inspection located lesions of the superior labrum most often, and these appeared slightly larger on arthrography than at operation. We consider that MR arthrography is a promising diagnostic technique for the evaluation of abnormalities of the acetabular labrum.