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Hip Dysplasia

What is hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is a term used to describe an abnormally shaped hip joint. Normally, the long bone of the leg (the femur) fits into the socket of the hip (the acetabulum), but in hip dysplasia the socket part of the joint is too shallow. This prevents the ball and socket from moving properly and leads to extra wear and tear on the joint. Over time this causes damage to the cartilage covering the hip socket, resulting in pain and stiffness when moving.

What causes hip dysplasia?

Usually, hip dysplasia occurs before birth or during childhood development, and severe cases are often picked up at a young age. However, mild cases may not be noticed until they cause symptoms as an adult. Risk factors for developing hip dysplasia include:

  • A family history of hip dysplasia
  • Female gender – around 80% of cases are girls*
  • Being the firstborn child
  • Being born in the breech (bottom down) position
  • Low levels of fluid in the womb during pregnancy

How is hip dysplasia diagnosed?

Hip dysplasia often causes pain in the hip and groin, and it may lead to a limp. Your hip may also feel as if it catches, locks or gives way when you walk. Your specialist will perform a careful examination of your hips to look for any signs of hip dysplasia, such as pelvic tilt, different leg lengths, or muscle wasting. They will also test the range of movement in your hip. An x-ray, CT or MRI scan is often used to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment and recovery

Surgery is usually the best option to treat hip dysplasia. The operation involves repositioning your hip socket so that it is better aligned, and the damaged tissues can be repaired through keyhole surgery. Recovery from the operation involves physiotherapy and exercises, and usually takes between 6-12 weeks, although this can vary.

If hip dysplasia has led to the development of arthritis in your hip, total hip replacement surgery may be advised. This involves replacing the damaged joint with artificial parts to restore the function in your hip. You should be able to resume some light activities 3-6 weeks after a total hip replacement.

For more information or to book an appointment, please contact us.


*Patient.info, Payne, J. (2019). Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip. [online] Available at: https://patient.info/health/newborn-baby-screening-tests/developmental-dysplasia-of-the-hip [Accessed 24 Jan. 2019].

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