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Hip dysplasia: What is it and how is it treated?

Hip dysplasia, Hip dysplasia treatment, Hip dysplasia pain

If you’re diagnosed with hip dysplasia, you’re not alone. It is the most common form of hip arthritis before the age of 50. Let’s learn about this condition before moving on to hip dysplasia treatment.

What Is hip dysplasia?

More than half of your body weight rests on your hips. They allow smooth movement of your upper legs so that you can walk, run, climb or sit with ease. Moreover, the hip joint is the biggest, ball, and socket joint in the body. Any problem in this joint can negatively affect your daily life.  

Hip dysplasia is a condition wherein the socket of the hip bone is shallow and doesn’t completely cover the ball on the upper thigh (femoral head). It often results in instability and hip displacement (the bone slides out of place) of the hip joint.

If left untreated for long, the joint may become painful and develop osteoarthritis. As the condition progresses, hip dysplasia can damage the cartilage, the tissue that cushions these bones in the joint, known as a hip labral tear. According to the American Family Physician, about 1 in every 1000 babies is born with hip dysplasia.

How is hip dysplasia diagnosed?

In infants

Most people diagnosed with hip dysplasia are born with this condition. It is also called DDH- Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip. It is a form of congenital dislocation of the hip which is caused by abnormal formation of the hip joint during the baby’s early stages of fetal development

Your doctor may do a physical examination gently applying pressure and rotating your baby’s legs in different positions to check for any abnormality. Your child may have:

  • Legs of unequal lengths (one leg shorter than the other)
  • One or both legs turned outwards
  • Less flexibility on one side
  • Limping when he starts to walk

An ultrasound scan helps diagnose hip dysplasia in babies less than six months old.

In adolescents or adults

Mild cases of this condition do not show any signs until a person has reached teenage or adulthood. As per the International Hip Dysplasia Institute, diagnosis of nine out of ten cases of hip dysplasia happens during adolescence or adulthood.

Your doctor will require imaging tests like X-ray and MRI to evaluate your condition correctly, during this time. These tests will help your doctor in assessing the extent of damage to the cartilage and the severity of dysplasia.

What are the symptoms of hip dysplasia?

Symptoms of hip dysplasia vary with age. Some prominent signs and symptoms include:

  • Hip pain that worsens with physical activity. Pain may be in the groin area or side of the hip.
  • Limping or limited range of motion
  • Clicking or popping sound from hips on movement
  • A sensation of hip instability

Risk factors associated with hip dysplasia?

There is no exact, specific cause of this condition. However, some common causes and risk factors are listed below:

  • Family history of hip dysplasia
  • More common in girls than boys
  • Being born in the breech position (bottom first instead of head first)
  • Large birth weight
  • Wrapping up the baby too tightly with hips and knees straight

What complications can occur if you have hip dysplasia?

The reason why early diagnosis is crucial to hip dysplasia treatment is its potential to cause debilitating complications later in life. Over time, this condition can result in:

  • Hip Labral Tear: Hip dysplasia can ruin the soft cartilage (labrum) that lines the socket portion of the hip joint.
  • Osteoarthritis of the Hip: This is when the cartilage in the hip joint wears away bit by bit, causing pain and stiffness.
  • Hip Displacement: In this, the bone wholly or partially slides out of its place.
  • Joint Instability: This condition entails a loose hip joint, causing pain and weakness.

What are the treatment methods for hip dysplasia?

As with all progressive ailments, hip dysplasia also has better treatment potential if found out in the early stages. Hence, it is advisable to consult an orthopaedist as soon as you notice any signs. Untreated hip dysplasia is most likely to develop arthritis later.

Hip dysplasia treatment varies with age and the extent of damage to the hip joint.

Treating developmental dysplasia of the hip in children 

Hip Dysplasia harness 

Congenital hip dysplasia treatment includes soft braces such as a Pavlik harness that holds the ball of the joint securely in its socket for a few months. This treatment moulds the socket to the shape of the ball and is ideal for babies less than six months old.

Full-body cast

For babies older than six months old, your doctor may use a full-body cast that holds the bone into its proper position for several months.

Treatment options for adolescents and adults

Hip preservation surgery

The primary goal of doctors is to preserve your hip for as long as possible or opt for a minimally invasive procedure. Periacetabular Osteotomy (PAO) is a surgical procedure performed by your doctor in which the bone is cut around the hip socket to correct the condition. 

Periacetabular is a medical term that means “around the hip socket,” and osteotomy refers to a procedure in which the bone is cut. PAO is ideal for patients whose hips haven’t yet become arthritic. 

Hip replacement surgery

If the condition is detected later in life and osteoarthritis has already established your doctor may suggest a total hip replacement surgery. It is also referred to as “arthroplasty” and uses simulated parts to replace the damaged joint. 

Non-surgical methods

Mild hip dysplasia with mild symptoms or where the hip is too damaged for surgery, your doctor may go for non-operative treatments. These are best suited to reduce hip dysplasia pain and manage your daily life. Your doctor’s advice shall include:

  • Losing weight
  • Low impact exercises which improve flexibility
  • Physiotherapy sessions for hip pain relief

Final words

Hip dysplasia is a progressive condition that worsens with time. For this reason, early diagnosis and considering different treatment options play an important role. Surgery is usually the most preferred method to treat hip dysplasia in teenagers and adults. 

Most people go on to live healthy lives after treatment without hip dysplasia pain. You may require rest for six weeks to three months after surgery before you can resume regular activities. However, it is vital to visit your doctor regularly to keep a check on the hip joint and to see that the condition doesn’t return.

Also, read: Your comprehensive guide to joint pains and their treatment

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