The natural alpha angle of the femoral headneck junction: A CROSS-SECTIONAL CT STUDY IN 1312 FEMURS

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Asphericity of the femoral head-neck junction is common in cam-type femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) and usually quantified using the alpha angle on radiographs or MRI. The aim of this study was to determine the natural alpha angle in a large cohort of patients by continuous circumferential analysis with CT.


CT scans of 1312 femurs of 656 patients were analyzed in this cross-sectional study. There were 362 men and 294 women. Their mean age was 61.2 years (18 to 93). All scans had been performed for reasons other than hip disease. Digital circumferential analysis allowed continuous determination of the alpha angle around the entire head-neck junction. All statistical tests were conducted two-sided; a p-value < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.


The mean maximum alpha angle for the cohort was 59.0° (SD 9.4). The maximum was located anterosuperiorly at 01:36 on the clock face, with two additional maxima of asphericity at the posterior and inferior head-neck junction. The mean alpha angle was significantly larger in men (59.4°, SD 8.0) compared with women (53.5°, SD 7.4°; p = 0.0005), and in Caucasians (60.7°, SD 9.0°) compared with Africans (56.3°, SD 8.0; p = 0.007) and Asians (50.8°, SD 7.2; p = 0.0005). The alpha angle showed a weak positive correlation with age (p < 0.05). If measured at commonly used planes of the radially reconstructed CT or MRI, the alpha angle was largely underestimated; measurement at the 01:30 and 02:00 positions showed a mean underestimation of 4° and 6°, respectively.


This study provides important data on the normal alpha angle dependent on age, gender, and ethnic origin. The normal alpha angle in men is > 55°, and this should be borne in mind when making a diagnosis of cam-type morphology.


Cite this article:Bone Joint J2018;100-B:570–8.

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