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Physical Examination of the Hip: Assessment of Femoroacetabular Impingement, Labral Pathology, and Microinstability.


Purpose of review

Determining the correct diagnosis can be challenging in patients presenting with hip pain. The physical examination is an essential tool that can aid in diagnosis of hip pathology. The purpose of this review is to provide an updated summary of recent literature on the physical exam of the hip, particularly as it relates to diagnosis of femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) syndrome, labral injury, and hip microinstability.

Recent findings

Physical exam findings consistent with the diagnosis of FAI include reduced supine hip internal rotation and positive flexion-adduction-internal rotation maneuvers. Labral tears can be detected on exam with the Scour test. Studies demonstrate altered hip biomechanics in patients with FAI during activities such as walking and squatting. Those with FAI have slower squat velocities, slower sit-to-stand tests, and increased hip flexion moments during ambulation. Hip microinstability is a dynamic process, which can occur after prior hip arthroscopy. For hip microinstability, the combination of the three following positive tests (anterior apprehension, abduction-extension-external rotation, and prone external rotation) is associated with a 95% likelihood of microinstability as confirmed by examination under anesthesia at the time of surgery. A comprehensive hip physical exam involves evaluation of the hip in multiple positions and assessing hip range of motion, strength, as well as performing provocative testing. A combination of physical exam maneuvers is necessary to accurately diagnose FAI syndrome and labral pathology as individual tests vary in their sensitivity and specificity. While an elevated level of suspicion is needed to diagnose hip microinstability, the provocative tests for microinstability are highly specific.

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