Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a common issue that affects babies’ hip joints. Most babies have no long-term effects or complications if a healthcare provider diagnoses and treats hip dysplasia when they’re younger than 6 months. Older children and adults can also develop hip dysplasia, but it’s less common.


Baby with a hip dislocation.
Hip dislocations are usually rare, but babies with hip dysplasia are more likely to experience one.

What is hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is a health condition that happens when the bones in your hip joint don’t fit together correctly.

Hip dysplasia is most common in babies and young children, but in mild cases, it first shows up in adults. Healthcare providers sometimes refer to hip dysplasia that children are born with as congenital hip dysplasia or developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH). These are all different names for the same condition.

A joint is a place in your body where two bones meet. Your hip joint is a connection point between your thigh bone (femur) and your hip bone (pelvis).

If you have hip dysplasia, your femur doesn’t fit into your pelvis correctly. Specifically, the round ball at the top of your femur (the femoral head) doesn’t line up properly with the curved socket in your pelvis that it should fit into (the acetabulum).

This poor fit can damage the cartilage that cushions your joint. In addition to symptoms like pain and stiffness, people with hip dysplasia are more likely to experience hip dislocations.

Visit a healthcare provider if you’re experiencing hip pain that doesn’t get better in a few days. See a provider if it seems like your baby is in pain or if one of their legs looks noticeably different from the other.

How common is hip dysplasia?

1 in every 1,000 babies born in the U.S. each year has hip dysplasia.


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Symptoms and Causes

What are hip dysplasia symptoms?

The most common hip dysplasia symptoms include:

  • Hip pain (usually in the front of your groin).
  • Feeling like your hip is loose or unstable.
  • Limping when you walk or move.
  • Having legs that are different lengths.

Babies born with hip dysplasia that aren’t old enough to walk yet may have different hip dysplasia symptoms, including:

  • Having one leg that turns out (away from the center of their body) more than the other.
  • Moving one leg less than the other.
  • Uneven or wrinkled skin around their thighs and butt (buttocks).

At what age do babies with hip dysplasia show symptoms?

Most babies with hip dysplasia are diagnosed when they’re younger than 6 months. Your healthcare provider might even diagnose your child right after they’re born.

Your child might not show any symptoms you can notice at home, but your provider will check their hips at every well-child visit.

It’s possible for older children, teens and even adults to develop hip dysplasia, but it’s less common.

What causes hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia happens when your femur doesn’t fit into the socket in your pelvis correctly. You might develop dysplasia if your hip socket is too shallow or the top (head) of your femur is shaped differently than usual.

Most people with hip dysplasia are born with it. It can develop during pregnancy if the fetus’s position puts pressure on its hips. It can also be a genetic condition that biological parents pass on to their children.

What are hip dysplasia risk factors?

Anyone can develop hip dysplasia, and any baby can be born with it. Women and people assigned female at birth and firstborn babies are more likely to have hip dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia can affect either hip, but it’s more common on the left side.


What are hip dysplasia complications?

Adults and babies with hip dysplasia are more likely to experience a hip dislocation. Usually, hip dislocations only happen during serious traumas like car accidents or severe falls. But if you have hip dysplasia, your hip joint is naturally weaker than it should be, which can increase the risk of dislocation. Having hip dysplasia can also cause looser than usual muscles and ligaments around your hip.

A healthcare provider will suggest ways to prevent injuries and reduce the risk you experience a dislocation.

Other hip dysplasia complications can include:

  • Hip labral tears: Damage to the cartilage inside your hip joint.
  • Osteoarthritis: Wear and tear arthritis that develops when your joint cartilage is worn away over time.
  • Unstable hip joints: Chronic (recurring) pain from your hip joint not fitting together correctly.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is hip dysplasia diagnosed?

A healthcare provider will diagnose hip dysplasia with a physical exam and some imaging tests.

Tell your provider when you first noticed hip pain and if any activity makes it worse.

Your provider will check your baby for signs of hip dysplasia right after they’re born and again at all their well-child visits.

What tests do providers use to diagnose hip dysplasia?

Your provider might use a few imaging tests to take pictures of your (or your child’s) hips, including:


Management and Treatment

How is hip dysplasia treated?

A healthcare provider will suggest treatments for hip dysplasia that relieve pain and protect your hip joint. The most common hip dysplasia treatments include:

  • Wearing a brace: Babies may need to wear a brace or harness that holds their hips in place. This will keep their joints in proper alignment while their body grows and develops. Bracing is usually all your child will need to correct dysplasia, especially if they start treatment when they’re younger than 6 months old. Most babies need to wear a brace for a few months.
  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist will give you stretches and exercises to strengthen the muscles around your hip joint and improve your flexibility.
  • Hip dysplasia surgery: Your provider may recommend surgery to correct hip dysplasia if other treatments don’t work. The most common procedures to repair hip dysplasia are hip osteotomy and hip arthroscopies. Osteotomy is surgery to realign and reshape your bones. A hip arthroscopy is a minimally invasive technique to repair damage inside your hip joint. People with severe hip dysplasia and arthritis might need a hip replacement (arthroplasty). Your surgeon will tell you which type of surgery you (or your child) will need and what to expect.


Can I prevent hip dysplasia?

You can’t prevent your child from being born with hip dysplasia. You also can’t prevent it in yourself. It happens on its own when your hips are shaped differently than usual.

Talk to your healthcare provider about protecting your child’s hips while they’re developing. They can give you tips to prevent putting too much stress on your baby’s joints.

Outlook / Prognosis

What is the outlook for hip dysplasia?

Most babies with hip dysplasia have no long-term effects if it’s treated early. They usually need to wear a brace for a few months to help their hips develop correctly, but after that should have no issues or complications.

Adults with hip dysplasia can usually return to all their activities once their healthcare provider says it’s safe.

Living With

When should I see my healthcare provider?

Visit a healthcare provider if you’re having hip pain that doesn’t get better after a few days of rest or if your child has any symptoms of hip dysplasia.

When should I go to the ER?

Go to the emergency room if you think you or your child has a dislocated hip. Never try to force a joint back into place on your own. Keep the joint as stable as possible and go to the emergency room right away.

What questions should I ask my healthcare provider?

  • Does my child have hip dysplasia or other congenital hip issues?
  • How often will my child need checkups on their hips?
  • Which treatments will I or my child need for hip dysplasia?
  • Will I or my child need surgery?

Additional Common Questions

Is walking good for hip dysplasia?

Adults with hip dysplasia should be able to walk and move. Your healthcare provider or physical therapist might suggest a specific amount of walking or other exercises to keep your hip strong and flexible. But don’t overdo physical activity. Don’t force yourself to move through pain. Ask your provider how much (and which kinds) of exercise are safe for you.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

It’s scary to learn that your baby was born with a health condition that you can’t prevent. But hip dysplasia is very treatable. Most children with dysplasia need to wear a brace for a few months to help their hips develop correctly. Once the dysplasia is corrected, your child should have no long-term effects. If they’re young enough when they’re treated for hip dysplasia, they might not even remember it.

Ask your healthcare provider about signs of hip dysplasia to watch out for at home. They’ll check your child’s hips during all of their well-child visits to make sure they diagnose and treat dysplasia as soon as possible.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/18/2023.

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