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Hip dysplasia

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Your options for healing from hip dysplasia

Have you, or has someone you love, been diagnosed with hip dysplasia? Your first step toward healing is to understand what hip dysplasia is and what you can do about it.

What is hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint that can range from mild hip instability to complete hip dislocation. One or both hip joints can be affected.

All newborn babies are screened for hip dislocation and/or instability before heading home from the hospital. But even hips that are normal at this stage can go on to reveal dysplasia later in life, due to abnormal development of the hip joint. Depending on the severity of the condition, it can cause pain, difficulty walking and arthritis of the hip.

What are the symptoms of hip dysplasia?

  • Activity-related pain in the hip region

  • Difficulty walking, or decreased walking endurance

  • Feeling a grinding sensation in the joint

  • Hearing a clicking or clunking sound, even if painless

  • Limping

  • Loss or limitation of the hip joint's range of motion

  • Pain in the groin region

  • Pain in the outer buttock or thigh

  • Sensation of giving way, catching or locking

  • Weakness, or giving way, in the leg/hip

How is hip dysplasia diagnosed?

Once hip dysplasia is suspected by your physician, the common first step is an X-ray of your pelvis that includes both hips. An X-ray with dysplasia may show a shallow or inclined hip socket, or a femoral head (the ball of the ball-and-socket joint) that is malaligned or appears too large for its socket. Often, an associated impingement of the upper leg bone is detected.

Your doctor will also perform a physical exam — noting hip discomfort during movement, clicking, limping and differences in leg length.

How can hip dysplasia be treated?

The principal goals of treatment are to alleviate pain and to postpone the onset of arthritis.

  • Nonsurgical treatment for hip dysplasia
    The first step in treatment is to attempt to eliminate your symptoms without performing surgery. This can be done by modifying your activities, performing muscle strengthening exercises or taking anti-inflammatory or other nonnarcotic pain medication. In some cases, weight loss may be recommended to help reduce symptoms.

  • Surgical treatment for hip dysplasia
    If nonsurgical treatment does not provide the desired results, surgery will be recommended as early as possible to prevent the onset of hip arthritis.

The preferred surgical option is a procedure called periacetabular osteotomy surgery. This procedure repositions and/or reshapes the bones of the hip. Weight bearing is moved from the damaged joint surfaces to healthier cartilage. During surgery, screws are inserted to keep the bone in its new place. The screws are removed after complete healing — usually after six months.

By performing hip osteotomy surgery as early as possible — before the onset of arthritis — the protective cartilage can be spared, decreasing both pain and the potential need for hip replacement.

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