Hip dysplasia diagnosis and treatment


A condition where the hip socket doesn’t fully cover the ball portion of the upper thighbone

What is hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is a condition in which the socket of the hip is too shallow, and the top of the thigh bone isn’t held tightly in place, which results in a loose hip joint. In severe cases, the thigh bone can dislocate (pop out of its socket).

Most people with hip dysplasia are born with the condition.

Need to know

What are the symptoms of hip dysplasia?

Symptoms vary by age group.

In infants one leg might be shorter than the other.

Toddlers may develop a limp.

In teenagers and young adults, it can cause complications including painful and stiff joints (osteoarthritis), or a hip labral tear, where the ridge of cartilage that runs around the rim of your hip joint socket gets torn, causing pain or clicking. During physical activity, this can cause groin pain.

What are the causes of hip dysplasia?

While the exact causes of hip dysplasia are unknown, most cases are thought to develop around the time of birth. At this point, the hip joint is made of soft cartilage that hardens into bone over time. If the ball isn't positioned firmly into the socket, the socket will not form properly around the ball, leaving it too shallow.

During the final weeks before birth the womb can become crowded depending on the size and position of the baby. This can move the ball of the hip joint out of its proper position, which leads to a shallower socket.

It’s also possible for patients to develop hip dysplasia in their teenage years. The condition tends to run in families and is more common in girls.

How is hip dysplasia diagnosed?

Your baby’s hips will be checked as part of a newborn physical examination. This examination will be performed again when they are six to eight weeks old.

The assessment involves the gentle manipulation of your baby’s hip joints and isn’t painful. If the hip feels unstable or there is a history of hip problems in the family, your consultant may recommend imaging tests such as an ultrasound scan. Mild cases of hip dysplasia often don’t cause symptoms until the baby becomes a teenager, so it can be difficult to diagnose.


Potential treatment options for hip dysplasia

Treatment options may include:

Pavlik harness. This is a fabric splint that is used for treating hip dysplasia in babies. It secures both hips in a stable position, which allows them to develop normally.

Surgery. If the harness doesn’t work or your baby is diagnosed at a later date, your consultant may recommend performing a surgical procedure known as an open reduction or a closed reduction which involves placing the ball of the thighbone (femur) back into the hip socket.

How to prevent hip dysplasia

In order to try and prevent your baby from developing hip dysplasia, there are a few things you can do.

  • Try not to swaddle your baby too tightly with their thighs and legs bound together.
  • See your paediatrician regularly, especially during the first six months, to have your baby checked for this condition.
  • Dress your baby in clothing that keeps them in the M position . This is the spread-squat position that supports healthy hip development

Living with hip dysplasia

Living with hip dysplasia can be painful. However, this can often be managed by pain relief, depending on the severity of your condition.

If pain from hip dysplasia becomes severe, you should speak with your doctor. Ignoring your pain will cause further degeneration of the joint and could even eliminate the possibility of corrective surgery in the future to restore hip function.

In some cases, your doctor may recommend that you get either periacetabular osteotomy (PAO) surgery or a total hip replacement (THR).

Our hip consultants

We’re proud to work with leading orthopaedic consultants who specialise in hip conditions for adults and children, and whose skills are matched by their integrity and compassion.

Our locations

From complex hip surgery to diagnostic CT and MRI scans, minor procedures, we provide exceptional orthopaedic care across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

Contact us

Our advisors can help with your enquiries. Or, you can book an appointment with a specialist or consultant

Call 020 7079 4344
This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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