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Pincer femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) is cited as being the result of a socket that is either too deep or retroverted, or both. Using 3D-CT analysis, we set out to quantify the acetabular rim shape and orientation to determine the roles of these two factors in FAI.

Twenty pincer acetabulae were selected from patients undergoing image based navigated surgery, where the lateral centre edge angle was greater than 40° on plain radiographs. The normal group of disease free sockets were obtained from a CT colonography database.

Using 3D reconstruction of their CT scans, a novel method of mapping the acetabular rim profile was created. The pelvis was aligned to the anterior pelvic plane. Starting at the most anterior rim point, successive markers were placed along the rim. A best fit plane (ARP) through the acetabulum was derived, and the subtended angle (SA) between each rim marker and a normal vector from the acetabular centre was calculated. Values above 90° indicated a peak, with less than 90° representing a trough. Inclination and version were measured from a horizontal plane and the ARP, in the coronal and axial view respectively.

The results showed that asymmetric acetabular rim profiles in normal and pincer hips were very similar. However, pincer hips are significantly deeper overall (Mean SA 96±5° vs. 87±4° p< 0.00001) and at each anatomical point of the three eminences (pubic [SA: Normal 84±4° vs. Pincer 94±7° p< 0.00001], iliac [SA: 93±4° vs. 100±6° p=0.00021] and ischial [SA: 92±3° vs. 102±8° p=0.00005]) and two troughs (ilio-pubic [SA: Normal 83±4° vs. Pincer 94±8° p=0.00001] and ilio-ischial [SA: 92±3° vs. 102±8° p=0.00002]).

The orientation of normal and pincer were almost identical (Inclination: 51±3° vs. 51±6° p=0.54 and Version: 24±6° vs. 25°±7° p=0.67).

We conclude that the rim shape of pincer hips follows the same contour as normal hips. In agreement with current radiographic diagnosis, pincer-type hips are characterised by a deeper acetabulum. This ‘overcoverage’ of the femoral head confirms the biomechanical model of pincer-type impingement.

Both inclination and version in these two groups were almost identical, with no truly retroverted acetabulum seen. Pincer impingement resulting from ‘acetabular retroversion’ is a concept currently based upon radiographic signs that we have been unable to confirm in this small 3D study using the subtended angle as the key descriptor of acetabular morphology.

Correspondence should be addressed to Mr K Deep, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, Golden Jubilee National Hospital NHS Trust, Beardmore Street, Clydebank, Glasgow G81 4HX, Scotland. Email: caosuk@gmail.com