Developmental hip dysplasia in infants

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Developmental hip dysplasia in infants

Question

What can you tell me about hip dysplasia in a newborn?

Penny
South Carolina

Answer

Developmental hip dysplasia is an abnormality of the hip joint in which the ball at the top of the thighbone (femoral head) isn't stable in the hip socket (acetabulum). Also, the ligaments of the hip joint may be stretched and loose. In severe cases, the femoral head may be out of the socket (dislocated).

Hip dysplasia can affect one or both hips. But it most often affects the left hip. The exact cause isn't clear. Genetics may play a role. It can also be associated with other musculoskeletal abnormalities. Developmental dysplasia of the hip most often occurs in:

  • Females
  • Firstborn children
  • Babies born in the buttock-first (breech) or feet-first position

Early detection can increase the chances for successful treatment. Hip dysplasia is usually detectable in the newborn exam. But it may also be found later. A doctor can confirm a diagnosis by ultrasound, usually done when the baby is 1 to 2 months old.

Treatment may include:

  • Wearing a Pavlik harness, a device that keeps the legs apart and turned outward, and places the femoral head properly in the still-forming pelvis
  • Casting
  • Surgery, in rare cases

Your doctor may refer you to a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. Left untreated, hip dysplasia may lead to pain and osteoarthritis in adult life.

Last Updated: 04/29/2005
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