Hip Dysplasia Symptoms and Prevention

While the term "prevention" may be controversial for a condition with congenital aspects, it's possible to diagnose dysplasia early enough in a child's life to take steps to correct the alignment. In addition, proper prenatal care to determine the position of the baby in the womb may be helpful in preparing for possible hip problems associated with breech births. Avoiding excessive and prolonged infant hip adduction, or forcing the legs in a straight position close together, may help prevent strain on the hip joints. One common source of prolonged hip adduction is the practice of swaddling.

swaddled baby
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The common practice of swaddling may contribute to hip dysplasia in some babies.

The following are some of the most common symptoms of developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH). While these are the most common, they may be experienced with differing severity. Pediatricians will screen newborns before sending them home from the hospital. In some cases, DDH is not always detectable at birth, and the baby will not present symptoms until some time later. The more common symptoms include:

  • One leg may appear shorter than the other.
  • The leg on the dislocated side may turn outward.
  • Folds of skin on the thigh or buttocks may appear uneven.
  • Distance between the legs may appear wider than normal
  • There may be less mobility or flexibility on one side.
  • The child may limp, toe walk or waddle.

If your baby appears to have any of these symptoms, consult your pediatrician for a diagnosis. If you or your relatives have had hip problems, an X-ray or sonogram may be appropriate, since dysplasia is more common in children of dysplastic parents.

If DDH is not detected at birth or in childhood, people will typically experience symptoms in their late twenties or early thirties. Common adult symptoms include:

  • Pain in the groin region that radiates to the outer buttock or thigh
  • Weakness in the leg
  • Difficulty walking, possibly limping
  • Loss or limitation in the joint's range of motion
  • Feeling a grinding sensation in the joint
  • Hearing a click or clunk sound
  • Sensation of giving way, catching or locking

The process of making a diagnosis is more specific than just checking off a list of symptoms, though. Next, we'll explore how doctors diagnose hip dysplasia in children.

Synonyms and Related Words

These are some terms you may hear in conjunction with hip dysplasia:

  • DDH: developmental dislocation of the hip
  • CDH: congenital dislocation of the hip
  • Hip subluxation: incomplete contact between the articular surfaces of the femoral head and acetabulum
  • Hip dislocation: complete loss of contact between the articular surface of the femoral head and acetabulum
  • Teratologic hip dislocation: dislocation of the hip before birth
  • Hip instability: the ability to subluxate or dislocate the hip with manipulation
  • Displaced hip