Acetabulum: Definition, Anatomy & Fracture

Instructor: Jennafer Tomlinson
This lesson will provide you with information regarding the coolest part of your hip joint, the acetabulum! After reading this lesson, you will know exactly what the function of acetabulum is and where it is located.

Anatomy of the Acetabulum

Do you often wonder how it is that we can bend forward and backwards at our hips? Isn't it great that we can rotate our legs in circles and swing our legs from front to back and side to side? Free movement of our lower body is due to two very special little joints that include the acetabulum, and you will learn more about that specific skeletal part in this lesson.

In order to understand what the acetabulum is, we must first begin with the understanding of the hip. The hip is a ball and socket joint that allows us to walk, bend, rotate our upper leg and move freely. Imagine making the letter C with your left hand and a fist with your right hand. Now place your closed right hand into the letter C of the left and you may better understand how the hip joint is made.

The hip is made up of three bones, the ilium bone, the ischium bone and the pubis bone.

3 Hip Bones that form Acetabulum
3 Hip Bones that form Acetabulum

Together, these three bones form the cup shaped socket, called the acetabulum, (the letter C). The upper leg is called the femur bone and at the very top of that bone there is a ball like structure called the femoral head, (the closed fist.) So in short, the acetabulum is the cup shaped portion of the hip bone that receives the femoral head of the femur bone, and together these two bony structures form the hip joint.

Fractures of the Acetabulum

Fractures of the acetabulum portion of the hip can be quite serious due to its location and formation. Most fractures of the acetabulum are due to severe traumatic injuries, such as a car accidents or falls. The head of the femur bone is usually pushed into the acetabulum socket, creating serious damage.

Because of the organs, nerves and blood vessels within the area of the acetabulum, fractures can be much more severe than just a hip fracture which usually involves the upper femur only. Dislocation of the femoral head from the acetabulum is another common injury, especially due to falls in older individuals.

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