Understanding Congenital Hip Dysplasia


It might be difficult to understand how a young child or newborn baby can experience the condition known as congenital hip dysplasia but it does occur quite often. It is when the hip develops in a way that allows the thigh bone to become dislodged from its normal position in the pelvis. It can be detected at birth or in the days after, and is known to occur in 1.5 percent of all births.

    Why it happens is not precisely known, but theories include:

  • A crossing over of the hormones that cause a pregnant woman’s ligaments to loosen in order to facilitate birth into her unborn child. This results in their ligaments loosening too, and this leads to the easy slippage of the femur from the pelvis;

  • Breech birth or cesarean section can cause a dislocation; or

  • Abnormal growth that allows the leg to be dislocated and shortened prior to birth.

Because physicians know to check for this relatively frequent and recognizable issue there are some immediate remedies available for children born with it. The initial goal is to be sure that the bone is realigned with the pelvis, which is done by putting gentle but constant pressure on the joint. The use of "Pavlik" harness is the most common approach, and so too is the "von Rosen" splint. These, however, are only safe for children who are six months or less.

There are also times when a child must be put into a cast in order to create the appropriate amount of pressure. If they have exceeded the age of six months they might also need to have a surgical repositioning of the leg and joint, or a total joint replacement altogether.

Obviously, this is an issue that is best treated in an "as soon as possible" manner. Thus, it is the children who are dealt with immediately after birth that get the best results from standard splinting or swaddling. When left untreated a child is going to show difficulty in learning to walk and will experience lifelong difficulty in movement of any kind. And this means that it is imperative to deal with the treatment as soon as possible. Almost all children who receive the braces, splints, or casts will grow up normally and enjoy completely natural hip and leg function. Delaying any intervention means putting the child at risk for surgery later in life.

Preventative Measures

Is there any way that this issue can be prevented? Actually, modern prenatal care can identify risks and can eliminate delivery methods that would lead to the hip dysplasia. For example, breech births are a common cause of this issue, and even mild cases of dysplasia can be made worse by prolonged bouts of swaddling with the legs in the wrong position. Knowing in advance that a child’s hip ligaments show laxity will help the delivering physician and the parents to understand the best tactics to use after delivery.

Something that many parents should also know is that their child’s splinting and bracing can be supplemented by specific exercise and therapy programs. There are also orthotics that can help to improve matters and working with a physical therapist is also a very advisable alternative form of treatment. In fact, it is highly recommended that physical therapy be an automatic treatment because it is going to help with the strengthening of the appropriate muscle groups and enhance range of motion.

One thing to consider is that pain control is something to take into consideration, and it can be challenging in a young child. You will want to discuss this with a physician as soon as the condition is discovered. Physicians will have the safest solutions that can help a child to remain comfortable even as they use their legs and heal.

Valerie Johnston is a health and fitness writer located in East Texas. With ambitions of one day running a marathon, writing for Healthline.com ensures she keeps up-to-date on all of the latest health and fitness news.



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