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Developmental dysplasia of the hip, also known as DDH, is a condition where the hip’s ball-and-socket joint has not formed normally in babies and young children. In DDH, which may affect one or both hips, the cup-shaped socket that the rounded head of the femur sits is too shallow, resulting in a hip joint is loose, sometimes allowing the ball to slip out of the socket, and in severe cases to become completely dislocated.
Causes of Developmental Hip Dysplasia
DDH occurs when a child is born with an unstable hip joint which is caused by an abnormal formation of the joint during the early stages of fetal development. The cause of developmental dysplasia is unknown in many cases, however contributing factors include breech birth, twin births, premature birth, low levels of amniotic fluid in the womb, or a family history of DDH. DDH is more common in girls than boys, and in first-born children. DDH is not preventable and no-one is to blame for the appearance of this condition.
DDH Newborn and Infant Checks
Any infant can have the condition of DDH. After delivery, a baby’s hips will be checked as part of the newborn physical examination, and at recurrent well-baby check-ups thereafter, typically throughout their first year of life. The hip instability that occurs with developmental dysplasia worsens as the child grows, and if not discovered at birth may be found at a later pediatric visit. Any concerns with the baby’s hip structure is generally referred to a pediatric orthopaedic specialist for evaluation and diagnosis.
Developmental Dysplasia Signs and Symptoms
While there may be no symptoms of DDH, the infant is routinely tested for this condition. Hip problems may develop in between pediatric revisits. If any of the following are noticed it is important to have the baby checked as soon as possible:
- Restricted movement or range of motion in a leg
- One leg drags behind the other when crawling
- One leg appears longer than the other
- Appearance of uneven skin folds in the buttocks or thighs
- Any kind of limp, or what appears to be an abnormal “waddle” walk
- Delays in expected ability to sit, crawl, stand, or walk
Early Diagnosis and Treatment of DDH Important
Without receiving proper treatment DDH may lead to problems later in life which may include hip pain, a limp, or development of osteoarthritis. Complicated or invasive treatment is less likely when DDH is identified and treated early. With early diagnosis and treatment, most children are able to develop normally and continue to exhibit full range of movement in their affected hip.
Common Treatments for DDH
Following a comprehensive evaluation, a treatment plan will be developed that may include use of a Pavlik harness which secures both of the baby’s hips in a stable position and allows them to develop normally. In some cases, surgery may be required if other therapeutic manipulations have not fully corrected the problem. Consulting with experts in the diagnosis and treatment of DDH ensure successful results for your child.
The providers at Pediatric Orthopaedic Associates can provide early diagnosis that is a crucial aspect of the treatment of children with DDH. Call the office for an appointment to evaluate for DDH.