My family seems to have a history of hip problems. We don't all have the same condition but quite a few have arthritis. Is there any value in going in and having X-rays taken to see if my hips are okay? I don't have any pain but I'm getting up there in age.
Research shows that about eight per cent of the general population develops arthritis. This is probably an under estimate as it is based on X-rays and many people don't have routine X-rays that reveal this diagnosis.
In an effort to prevent arthritis, there are some experts who suggest routine screening for problems that might result in arthritis. But the cost of performing X-rays and/or MRIs on everyone may not be cost-effective.
One condition that can lead to early degenerative changes is called femoroacetabular impingement (FAI). Perhaps one or more of your family members has had this diagnosed as the predisposing factor for their arthritis.
Impingement refers to some portion of the soft tissue around the hip socket getting pinched or compressed. Femoroacetabular tells us the impingement is occurring where the femur (thigh bone) meets the acetabulum (hip socket). There are several different types of impingement. They differ slightly depending on what gets pinched and where the impingement occurs.
A recent study was done to see how many people in the general population have this problem. They took MRIs of the hips of 200 adult volunteers (ages 21 to 50) for a total of 400 hips. By examining the MRIs against other tests performed, they were able to see that 14 per cent of the people had femoroacetabular impingement and didn't know it.
In this study, they specifically looked at age, gender (male versus female), body-mass index (a measure of obesity), and ethnicity. These potential factors may put people at increased risk for impingement and then for going on to develop arthritis later.
There were some significant findings from the measurements taken of each volunteer when compared with their MRI results. The elevated angle measured on X-ray (called the alpha angle) wasn't diagnostic of femoroacetabular impingement by itself. (Though it was a predictor of hip pain and joint cartilage damage).
When combined with restricted hip internal rotation, the alpha angle could be used to predict impingement. A positive impingement sign was a reliable indicator of a problem with the labrum (rim of cartilage around the hip socket).
What this tells us is that your orthopedic physician can examine you and offer some direction as to whether or not an X-ray or MRI is even needed. If you are painfree and there are no clinical signs of impingement or arthritis, then it may be appropriate to just monitor your situation. This will avoid unnecessary costs and exposure to X-rays while still keeping an eye out for any signs of developing problems.
Kalesha Hack, MD, et al. Prevalence of Cam-Type Femoroacetabular Impingement Morphology in Asymptomatic Volunteers. In The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery. November 2010. Vol. 92. No. 14. Pp. 2436-2444.
*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.