Hip dysplasia is a condition that can be present at birth or develop further in infancy. Its causes are both inherited and environmental, but fortunately it can usually be managed and treated successfully if detected early.

What is hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is a looseness or instability of the hip joint. This occurs when the ball of the femur (the upper leg bone) doesn’t properly settle into the hip socket. Babies can be born with this condition or they can develop it around the time they are crawling or learning to walk. This can also be referred to as developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH).

If hip dysplasia is not treated it can lead to developmental difficulties of the hip and delays in walking. Hip dysplasia in adults can also lead to early arthritis of the hip and other joints.

What causes hip dysplasia?

Some of the risk factors associated with hip dysplasia include:

  • Being female
  • A family history of hip dysplasia
  • Breech births
  • Being first born
  • Neuromuscular or connective tissue disorders.

Some of the causes of DDH include:

  • Incorrect swaddling techniques
  • Incorrect use of baby carriers and slings
  • Incorrect use of car and pram restraints.

What are the symptoms to look out for?

  • Clicking or clunking with movement of the leg and hip
  • Difficulty spreading legs apart
  • Different leg lengths
  • Uneven thigh creases
  • Crooked buttocks creases
  • A turned out foot or feet
  • Delays in sitting up and walking.

How is hip dysplasia treated?

Every child will have their hips checked at birth, and at one week, six weeks, six months and again around the time they walk.

Hip dysplasia detected early can sometimes be treated by wearing a soft brace called a Pavlik harness for six to 10 weeks. Physiotherapy and changes to feeding, carrying and swaddling techniques can also help. In some cases, surgery is required to correct the displacement of the ball of the femur.