Hip dysplasia affects thousands of babies a year

Early detection is key to treatment

When many people think of hip issues, an elderly person might come to mind. But every year, thousands of babies in the U.S. are born with hip dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia is the medical term for a hip socket that doesn’t fully cover the ball portion of the upper thighbone. This allows the hip joint to become partially or completely dislocated.

“The exact cause of hip dysplasia is unknown, but the condition occurs more often in first-born children and is more common in girls,” said Joshua W. Meier, M.D., pediatric orthopedic surgeon with Norton Children’s Orthopedics of Louisville. “The risk of hip dysplasia also is higher in babies born breech or with a family history.”

Babies should be screened for signs of hip dysplasia by their primary care provider, but symptoms might not appear right away. Once a child begins walking, a limp may develop. During diaper changes, one hip may be less flexible than the other or the space between the legs may look wider than normal.

Early treatment is important

If treatment is delayed beyond age 2, hip deformity can lead to pain, a walk that looks like a waddle and a decrease in strength. This is why early detection and treatment are critical. If left untreated, osteoarthritis and hip deformities can develop in young adulthood.

Norton Children’s Orthopedics of Louisville

Our pediatric orthopedic specialists understand that growing children have their own unique needs, as do their bones and muscles.

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“Treatment options are based on a child’s age, health and severity of the condition,” Dr. Meier said. “The goal is to put the ball back into the socket of the hip and to make sure the socket is deep, so the hip can develop normally.”

Treatment options include:

  • Pavlik harness (for babies up to 6 months old)
  • Abduction brace
  • Body cast, also called spica cast
  • Surgery, such as varus derotation osteotomy (VDRO) or Salter pelvic osteotomy