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Developmental Dysplasia or Congenital Dislocation of the Hip

As a parent waiting for your child’s birth, you would be very worried if the pediatrician comes and tells you that your child has a congenital dislocation of the hips or clicky hips. What is it and why it happened? Can it be treated and what are its symptoms? Developmental dislocation of the hip happens to 1 or 2 babies out of 1,000 births and is more common in girls than boys.

What is developmental dysplasia of the hips?

Hip dysplasia is the result of an abnormal development of the hip. The hip is a ball and a socket joint. The ball is the femur head and the socket is part of the pelvis. For some reason the socket is shallow and cannot hold the ball which causes dislocation. It is more likely to happen for kids in breech position, or big babies who did not have enough room in the uterus to move.

What are the symptoms and signs of developmental dysplasia of the hips?

Hip dislocation is usually diagnosed directly after birth. The pediatrician performs a test by applying pressure on the hips while moving them backward. This technique is not painful for your baby. If the doctor hears a click he will perform an X-ray to confirm the condition followed by a specialist check up.

In most cases it is not easy to detect visually the hip problem, but sometimes you can spot the following signs:

  • One leg looks slightly shorter

  • While changing the nappies, your baby would not be able to open his legs symmetrically

  • The leg with the hip dislocation looks to turn out more

  • Extra skin folds of thigh and buttocks

What is the treatment of Hip dislocation?

The treatment depends on how severe the dislocation is. If treated earlier, the prognosis is satisfying. If left, complex surgery would be necessary to fix the problem. During the first months of life, a device will be placed to keep the legs apart and turned out. With time the body adapts to the correct position and the hip will function normally. In some cases, a surgery is needed to repair the dislocation. In older babies who are more than 6 months old, this technique won’t work and a surgical operation is needed to reposition the hip. A cast is placed from the chest down to the ankles to maintain and secure the hip position. This will reduce the baby’s movement and would affect the family life.

This surgery will assure a healthy development of the hip but would affect emotionally the whole family. As a parent, it would be very hard to see your baby mobilized in a cast for several weeks but you must know that untreated hip dysplasia may lead to arthritis and deterioration of the hip which will affect your child’s mobility in the future.

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