Hip dysplasia in children is a condition that occurs before birth owing to a number of possible reasons. When your child has hip dysplasia that goes untreated, it could end up affecting them either mildly or severely later on in life.

Getting such conditions diagnosed and treated properly is what we specialize in at the Dell Children’s Medical Center pediatric orthopedic program. Our pediatric orthopedic doctors are ready to help you through the journey of understanding, diagnosing and treating hip dysplasia.

Wellness and Prevention

Hip dysplasia is a congenital condition, which means it develops within the womb. The condition is classified as one that affects babies during development (in utero) but with little understanding as to what causes it. What is clear, however, is that genes play an important role in the development of hip dysplasia. The following have also been noted as contributing (risk) factors:

  • The health and well-being of the mother.
  • Whether the mother smokes or takes recreational drugs during pregnancy.
  • Being the first baby.
  • If your baby is fairly large relative to the size of your womb.
  • If your baby is in breech position, meaning the feet are in a tighter position than usual.
  • It’s also been noted that hip dysplasia is more common in baby girls as well as babies born with a foot deformity.

There is no single proven way to prevent hip dysplasia in infants as the condition occurs before birth. It is, however, important to get screened for these risk factors by a pediatric orthopedic specialist to determine if your baby has a higher-than-normal chance of getting the condition.

Diagnosis

When your child has hip dysplasia, it means the ball and socket components of the hip joint do not fit together properly. As the name suggests, the ball part of the joint, the one connected to the upper leg and thigh, is displaced from the socket at the hip. This happens while the bones are still developing within the womb and only becomes possible to diagnose after birth. Some of the signs and methods used to diagnose hip dysplasia include:

  • At birth, a physical exam can determine whether one leg is shorter than the other, a sign that hip dysplasia may be present.
  • Observation of the baby’s leg movements during clinic visits. If your child seems to be moving one leg more than the other, this could be a sign of hip dysplasia
  • Mild hip dysplasia is hard to catch especially when the child is very young. Getting some X-rays done after about a year may better diagnose the problem and suggest the best mode of treatment.

Treatments

Treatments for hip dysplasia are determined by the age of the patient and the severity of the case. In the case of children below the age of 6 months, a soft brace, also known as a Pavlik harness, may be used effectively to reposition and hold the ball firmly in place for several months. This allows the ball and socket to grow into each other.

For children aged above 6 months, this soft brace may not work. Instead, the pediatric orthopedic surgeon may manually move the bones into place and hold them that way with a full-body cast for a couple of months. This may be coupled with minor surgery if the bones cannot be moved from the exterior. For older children with the condition, surgery may be required to reshape and reposition the joint bones or in extreme cases, have a hip replacement procedure.

Aftercare

Depending on the treatment undertaken, there may be some aftercare required. In the case of a Pavlik harness, not much is required in terms of follow-up care. Nevertheless, it is recommended that you see your children’s orthopedic doctor regularly throughout the treatment phase to ensure the healing is progressing as expected.

For surgical hip dysplasia treatments, you will need to carefully follow your doctor’s instructions when it comes to wound care and bed rest, among other aspects. The top priority of treatment is to improve overall quality of life.