What is developmental dysplasia of the hip? — Developmental dysplasia of the hip is a condition that causes hip joint problems, mostly in babies and children. The hip joint is a “ball and socket” joint. It’s called that because the top of the thigh bone is ball-shaped and fits into part of the pelvic bone .
In developmental dysplasia of the hip, the “socket” part of the joint doesn’t form normally. Because of this, the hip joint is too loose. The “ball” part can slip out of the joint too easily. If it slips completely out of the joint, doctors call it “dislocation.”
What are the symptoms of developmental dysplasia of the hip? — Developmental dysplasia of the hip usually causes no symptoms in babies. People usually find out their baby has it during a routine exam. All babies are checked for developmental dysplasia of the hip after birth. Plus, doctors and nurses check for this condition at every routine visit until a child is walking.
Sometimes, people find out their child has developmental dysplasia of the hip when their child has an X-ray of the hip done for another reason.
In toddlers and older children, development dysplasia of the hip can cause symptoms. It can make one leg look shorter or turned away from the body. It can also cause a child to limp or walk in an uneven way.
Is there a test for developmental dysplasia of the hip? — The doctor or nurse will check for this condition by moving your baby’s legs around in the hip joint. He or she will also check to make sure that both legs look the same, and that one leg does not seem shorter than the other.
The doctor or nurse might also order an X-ray or imaging test. The test done most often to check for developmental dysplasia of the hip is an imaging test called an ultrasound. Imaging tests create pictures of the inside of the body.
How is developmental dysplasia of the hip treated? — Treatment depends mostly on your child’s age.
Babies younger than 2 weeks old aren’t always treated right away. That’s because a loose hip joint can be normal in newborn babies. It sometimes gets better on its own. If your baby has a loose hip, the doctor or nurse will keep checking it to see if the condition goes away or lasts.
Treatment for babies ages 2 weeks to 6 months usually involves wearing a device to hold the hip joint in place so that the bones can grow normally. The device most often used is called a “Pavlik harness” (figure 2). Babies usually need to wear this for 2 to 3 months.
Treatment for babies and children older than 6 months usually involves a procedure or surgery to put the hip joint bones back in the correct position. Then your child will need to wear a cast for 3 to 4 months to keep the hip joint in place.
Does developmental dysplasia of the hip cause long-term problems? — This depends on different factors, including how old your child was when the condition was found and how severe it was. Many babies with this condition have no long-term hip problems.
Some children, especially those who were found to have the condition later in childhood, have hip joint pain or damage later on.