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Hip Dysplasia: Are You at Risk?

Could you have hip dysplasia and not even know it? “Hip dysplasia is often diagnosed at infancy, but it’s possible for you to reach skeletal maturity without having any clear signs or symptoms into adolescence and adulthood,” said Laura Vogel, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Banner Health.

Hip dysplasia, or developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH), “is a condition in which the acetabulum, or socket, of the hip joint is too shallow or oriented in such a way that it doesn’t fully cover the ball portion of the upper thigh bone,” according to Dr. Vogel. This can lead to hip dislocation or instability of the hip joint, she added.

How do I know if I have hip dysplasia?

Most often, hip dysplasia is diagnosed at birth or infancy during a visit with a pediatrician. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), DDH occurs in about 1 to 1.5 of 1,000 births. 

The cause is unknown but risk factors include:

  • being female
  • having a family history of hip dysplasia
  • being a firstborn child
  • being a baby born in breech position
  • being a baby born at a large birth weight

If not recognized at birth or infancy, in most cases, patients will eventually develop hip pain, a limp, gait abnormality, or leg length discrepancy related to their hip dysplasia. “Many young patients are told that they are too young to have hip pain and that their x-rays are normal,” said Dr. Vogel. “Misdiagnosis is not uncommon in cases of hip dysplasia--previous studies have shown that a patient may see more than three providers and have symptoms for five years before being given a diagnosis of hip dysplasia.”

Is hip dysplasia treatable?

Hip dysplasia is a treatable condition, but treatment options differ based on your age and the extent of your hip damage. The preferred treatment for hip dysplasia diagnosed in an infant is a Pavlik harness, which functions to flex the baby’s hips, while at the same time preventing adduction of the hips.

If your hip dysplasia is discovered later in life, “your doctor will likely start with a recommendation for physical therapy, and possibly anti-inflammatory medications and injections, to help you manage the symptoms,” said Dr. Vogel. “If these treatments are not effective, hip preservation or hip replacement surgery may be your best option.” In hip preservation surgery, the native tissues in the hip are repaired and a bony realignment procedure is performed to correct the underlying instability, but “it can be a complicated surgery with a long recovery,” according to Dr. Vogel.

There are risks of leaving your hip dysplasia untreated. “As you age, you are more likely to develop osteoarthritis at a younger age than in patients without hip dysplasia,” said Dr. Vogel. “Once this happens, the only available treatment option is a surgical hip replacement.”

If you’re experiencing persistent hip pain, Dr. Vogel recommends seeking care from a knowledgeable provider as soon as you recognize the symptoms. Schedule an appointment with a Banner Health doctor to be evaluated and learn about your treatment options.

To learn more about your hip and knee health, take our free Joint Pain Test.

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