Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

A systematic review of the diagnostic performance of orthopedic physical examination tests of the hip

Labib Ataur Rahman1*, Sam Adie123, Justine Maree Naylor123, Rajat Mittal123, Sarah So1 and Ian Andrew Harris123

Author Affiliations

1 South West Sydney Clinical School, University of New South Wales, P.O. Box 906, Caringbah, NSW 2229, Australia

2 Orthopaedic Department, Liverpool Hospital, P.O. Box 906, Caringbah, NSW 2229, Australia

3 Whitlam Orthopaedic Research Centre, P.O. Box 906, Caringbah, NSW 2229, Australia

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2013, 14:257  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-14-257

Published: 30 August 2013



Previous reviews of the diagnostic performances of physical tests of the hip in orthopedics have drawn limited conclusions because of the low to moderate quality of primary studies published in the literature. This systematic review aims to build on these reviews by assessing a broad range of hip pathologies, and employing a more selective approach to the inclusion of studies in order to accurately gauge diagnostic performance for the purposes of making recommendations for clinical practice and future research. It specifically identifies tests which demonstrate strong and moderate diagnostic performance.


A systematic search of Medline, Embase, Embase Classic and CINAHL was conducted to identify studies of hip tests. Our selection criteria included an analysis of internal and external validity. We reported diagnostic performance in terms of sensitivity, specificity, predictive values and likelihood ratios. Likelihood ratios were used to identify tests with strong and moderate diagnostic utility.


Only a small proportion of tests reported in the literature have been assessed in methodologically valid primary studies. 16 studies were included in our review, producing 56 independent test-pathology combinations. Two tests demonstrated strong clinical utility, the patellar-pubic percussion test for excluding radiologically occult hip fractures (negative LR 0.05, 95% Confidence Interval [CI] 0.03-0.08) and the hip abduction sign for diagnosing sarcoglycanopathies in patients with known muscular dystrophies (positive LR 34.29, 95% CI 10.97-122.30). Fifteen tests demonstrated moderate diagnostic utility for diagnosing and/or excluding hip fractures, symptomatic osteoarthritis and loosening of components post-total hip arthroplasty.


We have identified a number of tests demonstrating strong and moderate diagnostic performance. These findings must be viewed with caution as there are concerns over the methodological quality of the primary studies from which we have extracted our data. Future studies should recruit larger, representative populations and allow for the construction of complete 2×2 contingency tables.

Physical examination/physical tests; Hip/Hip joint; Diagnosis; Sensitivity and specificity; Predictive values; Likelihood ratios; Systematic review; Orthopedics