Joint-preserving hip surgery, either arthroscopic or open, increasingly is used for the treatment of symptomatic femoroacetabular impingement (FAI). As a consequence of surgery, thickening of the joint capsule and intraarticular adhesions between the labrum and joint capsule and between the femoral neck and the joint capsule have been observed. These alterations are believed to cause persistent pain and reduced range of motion. Because the diagnosis is made with MR arthrography, knowledge of the normal capsular anatomy and thickness on MRI in patients is important. To date there is no such information available.


The purpose of this study was to establish thickness, length of the hip capsule, and the size of the perilabral recess in patients with FAI.


We reviewed the preoperative MR arthrography of 30 patients (15 men) with clinical symptoms of FAI. We measured capsular thickness and made observations on the perilabral recess.


The joint capsule was thickest (6 mm) anterosuperiorly between 1 and 2 o’clock. The average length from the femoral head-neck junction to the femoral insertion of the capsule ranged from 19 to 33 mm. A perilabral recess was present circumferentially, even across the acetabular notch, where the labrum is supported by the transverse acetabular ligament. The shortest recess occurred superiorly.


Knowledge of the capsular anatomy in patients with FAI before surgery is important to judge the postoperative changes and to plan potential further therapy including arthroscopic treatment of intraarticular adhesions.

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