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What is Developmental Dysplasia?

Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) or hip dysplasia is a condition that is seen in infants and young children because of developmental problems in the hip joint. The femur (thighbone) partially or completely slips out of the hip socket leading to dislocation at the hip joint. It is most common in the first-born baby with a family history of the disorder.

Causes of Developmental Dysplasia

The exact cause for hip dysplasia is not known. Genetic factors play an important role in causing this birth defect. DDH can be mild or severe and can affect one or both hips. It is more common in girls and usually affects the left hip. DDH does not cause any pain and so the condition may not be noticed until your child starts to walk.

Symptoms of Developmental Dysplasia

The common symptoms of hip dysplasia include:

  • The dislocated hip may cause leg on that side to turn outwards.
  • There may be restricted movement on the side of the dislocated hip.
  • The leg may appear shorter on the side where hip is dislocated.
  • Skin folds of fat on the thigh or buttocks may appear uneven.

In a normal hip, the head of the femur (thighbone) fits well into the socket (acetabulum) whereas in hip dysplasia, the socket and femoral head are not congruent because of their abnormal development.

Diagnosis of Developmental Dysplasia

During the examination of the hip, your child’s doctor may also look for difference in range of motion of the hip, presence of uneven skin folds around the thigh and difference in leg length. In infants less than 6 months, an ultrasound may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatments for Developmental Dysplasia

The treatment for DDH depends on both the age of your child and severity of the condition. The aim of treatment is to keep the femoral head in good contact with the acetabulum so that the hip can develop normally. A Pavlik harness may be used to keep the hip in flexion and abduction may be advised. Only when conventional treatments are not effective, surgery to put the hip back into place may be advised.

  • Baylor College of Medicine
  • University of Southern California
  • Scripps Clinic