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What is Acetabular Dysplasia?

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  • Written By: Angela Crout-Mitchell
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2016
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Acetabular dysplasia is a condition of the human hip joint characterized by a mild to severe deformity of the acetabulum section of the pelvic cradle. This section of the pelvis is responsible for stabilizing and holding the head of the femur, or thigh bone, in place. When hip dysplasia is present, the indentation of the acetabulum is too shallow, allowing the thigh bone to slip and move in an unnatural way. Common symptoms of this disorder include stiffness, walking with a limp, and pain, especially during exercise. Some people with this condition report very few problems associated with it, while others find even the simplest movements cause a great deal of pain and discomfort.

This condition affects an estimate 0.1% of the population, and more commonly affects women than men. Experts believe this is because the female skeleton varies in shape from the male, and is structured to allow for special movements adapted to monthly hormonal changes, pregnancy, and child birth. There does not seem to be connection between experiencing acetabular dysplasia and motherhood, as the condition often exists at birth and is discovered later when the child begins to walk abnormally or experiences pain. The severity of the deformed hip socket indicates the type of treatment required.

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In many cases, acetabular dysplasia can be treated in non-surgical ways including the use of over-the-counter and prescription muscle relaxers and pain relievers. Doctors try to limit medications for long term use because they can cause adverse side effects to the patient's health and may be habit forming. It is not unusual for physical therapy exercises and treatments to be used for this condition as well. Patients are given a series of exercises and movements designed to strengthen the muscles of the hip joint for greater range of motion and pain relief.

Severe cases of acetabular dysplasia may result in the need for surgical intervention in order for the patient to have full use of their affected hip joint and leg. There are two types of surgeries commonly used for hip dysplasia, including joint replacement and laser surgery. In a full hip replacement, the head and top portion of the femur is removed and a metal replacement is installed. The artificial bone head is formed to fit into the shallow acetabulum more effectively. Laser surgery involves using laser light to carve out the acetabulum to create a deeper groove for the head of the femur, resulting in greater joint stability and function.

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