Developmental Dislocation of the Hip

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Developmental dislocation of the hip surfaces during the first year of a child’s life and is characterized by loose, dislocatable or dislocated hips. The condition can occur at birth or shortly thereafter; thus it is important that your pediatrician examine your child for developmental dislocation of the hip during check-ups.

Developmental dislocation of the hip is a condition best treated early. Although the condition may not cause pain or difficulty in your infant, it can lead to long-term complications later in life, including: osteoarthritis, chronic pain, abnormal gait, unequal leg length and decreased agility.

The condition is more common among infant girls than boys and occurs as a result of laxity in the muscles surrounding the hip. It is unclear whether this results from genetic or environmental factors; however, in 33 percent of cases, there is a family history of the condition.

Medical treatment before walking age has an excellent opportunity for success. After walking age, the treatment is more likely to involve surgery and the long-term results can be more problematic.

What are the symptoms?

  • Difficulty diapering
  • Difference in leg length
  • Asymmetric appearance in the two legs
  • Gait abnormality
  • One foot pointing in or out

In older children, symptoms include:

  • Limping
  • Waddling
  • Toe walking
  • Leg-length discrepancy
  • Swayback

What are my child’s treatment options?

The goal of treatment is to manipulate the hip into an appropriate position and hold it there while the body corrects the condition and the hip strengthens. Children six months of age or younger can use a Pavlik Harness, which holds the hip in position while still allowing some movement. Doctors who treat children older than six months may move the hip into place (under anesthesia) and use a cast for three months, followed by a brace for three months.

Children who are older than one year may require surgery to correct the placement of the hip. After surgery, the child wears a cast. Additional surgery may be necessary if the hip dislocates.

What are the risks of surgery?

Risks include nerve injury, infection, bleeding, and stiffness.

How does my child prepare for surgery?

  • Complete any pre-operative tests or lab work prescribed by your child’s doctor.
  • Do not allow your child to take aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) one week prior to surgery.
  • Call the appropriate surgery center to verify your child’s appointment time. If the surgery is being done at Cleveland Clinic, call 216.444.0281.

What should I do the night before surgery?

Do not allow your child to eat or drink anything after midnight.

What does my child need to do the day of surgery?

  • If your child currently takes any medications, have her or him take them the day of the surgery with just a sip of water.
  • Do not allow your child to wear any jewelry, body piercing, makeup, nail polish, hairpins or contacts.
  • Have your child wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing.

What happens after surgery?

Ask your surgeon for complete post-operative instructions.

How long is the recovery period after surgery?

Your surgeon will inform you of your child’s recovery period.

What is the rehab after surgery?

Your surgeon will inform you if any rehabilitation is necessary.

How will my child manage at home during recovery from the procedure?

Your surgeon will provide you with home-going instructions.

How frequently should I schedule follow up appointments with my child’s doctor following surgery?

Your surgeon will inform you of the frequency of your child’s follow-up appointments.

Schedule an Appointment Online

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  • Orthopaedics & Rheumatology: 866.275.7496
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To arrange a same-day visit, call 216.444.2606

This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

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