Dysplasia of the hip is a condition in which one or both sides of a newborn‘s hip joint does not function correctly. The hip is a ball-and-socket joint, in which the “ball” (the top part of the thigh bone) fits into the “socket” (the part of the pelvic bone known as the “acetabulum.”) In dysplasia of the hip, the newborn’s acetabulum is too shallow, causing the femur to fall all or part of the way out of the hip socket.
Because dysplasia of the hip is fairly common (affecting 1-10 out of every 1,000 births), your newborn will usually be screened for this condition in the hospital by a simple physical exam: the doctor applies pressure while manipulating the baby’s hips and listens for any characteristic “pops” or “clicks.” If dysplasia is suspected, your physician may then administer an ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis. Even if your newborn passes this initial screening, your pediatrician will continue to check for dysplasia until the age of 2, especially if:
- This is your first child
- Your child is female (dysplasia of the hip is more common in girls than boys)
- Your child was in a breech position during pregnancy (that is, your child’s bottom was delivered first instead of the head)
- You have a family history of dysplasia
If your newborn is diagnosed with dysplasia of the hip, your doctor will likely prescribe a Pavlik harness that keeps the legs turned out until the hips are more fully developed. This will help the bones grow into the proper position in the hip socket. If dysplasia is diagnosed in a toddler who is already walking, surgery may be required to correct the defect. In older infants, dysplasia of the hip can reveal itself when one leg turns outward or is noticeably shorter than the other leg, or the child has a painless limp causing waddling when walking.
- Dysplasia of the hip is more common in firstborns, females, and babies who have been in a breech position during pregnancy.
- Your child will usually be screened for dysplasia at birth or shortly after.
- Dysplasia of the hip can usually be treated with a corrective harness up to six months of age.
- After six months old, dysplasia of the hip may require surgery.