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Ann Rheum Dis. 2004 Sep;63(9):1145-51.

The normal hip joint space: variations in width, shape, and architecture on 223 pelvic radiographs.

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  • 1Service de Rhumatologie, Hôpital Léopold Bellan, Paris, France.



To determine the range of normal radiographic joint space width (JSW) values and the shape of the normal hip, and the influence of age, sex, dysplasia, coxa profunda, and acetabular roof curve abnormalities on these values.


On routine conventional pelvic radiographs taken in the supine position in patients with no history of hip or lumbar pain, JSW was measured at three points (superolateral, apical, superomedial), together with the VCE, HTE, and neck shaft angles; acetabular depth; and femoral head diameter.


223 radiographs (446 hips) from 127 women and 96 men (mean age 51.3 years) were examined. Interindividual variations in JSW were large (apical site: 4.19 (0.92) mm; range 2-7). Mean JSW values were higher at the superolateral site than at the apical and superomedial sites in nearly 80% of cases. Women had lower JSW values than men. JSW values did not fall with age. Marked right/left JSW asymmetry was seen in 13/221 (5.9%) subjects. Eight cases of acetabular dysplasia (7 unilateral) and 16 cases of coxa profunda were found, but no cases of acetabular protrusion. The JSW was thicker in dysplastic hips, and thinner in hips with coxa profunda. A roof curve abnormality was found in 96/446 (21.5%) hips.


Normal JSW values vary widely; the JSW is commonly narrower at the superomedial site than at the apical site, and is sometimes asymmetric. The roof curve is dysmorphic in about 20% of patients. These findings may have important implications for epidemiological studies and early diagnosis of osteoarthritis of the hip.

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