What is Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip?

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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2019
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Developmental dysplasia of the hip incorporates several conditions affecting the hip and upper leg. It is also referred to as a dislocated hip or congenital hip dislocation. Although the dislocated hip may be the clearest sign of problem, other signs of the disease include incomplete contact or lack of contact between the femur bone of the leg and the hip. Basically, with this medical condition, the hip has grown abnormally, causing the affected individual to have movement problems, such as difficulty walking.

As a congenital medical condition, developmental dysplasia of the hip is typically discovered when a child is born. Researchers believe that the condition can arise at any point until the skeleton fully develops, starting at the time of conception. As with many medical problems, developmental dysplasia of the hip is best treated if it is discovered when the child is an infant. The older the child is and the more the bones mature, the harder it is to treat.


Some racial or ethnic groups are more prone to developmental dysplasia of the hip than others. For example, Native American people are among the most likely groups of people to develop this condition. In the alternative, African-American people are among the least likely to suffer from it. Genetics plays a large role in determining who will be affected by developmental dysplasia of the hip. In fact, if one or both parents have the condition, researchers believe it greatly increases the chance that the child will develop it.

Besides genetics, scientists are learning other causes of developmental dysplasia of the hip. For example, the way the baby is positioned in the womb may increase the likelihood that a child will have hip dysplasia upon birth. In addition, swaddling a baby tightly may cause the dysplasia. People affected by a few other disorders, such as cerebral palsy, might also show signs of congenital hip dislocation, linking the two conditions.

Early diagnosis by a trained medical provider is important for proper treatment of developmental dysplasia of the hip. The condition typically is diagnosed through a physical examination of the child. If the provider suspects a problem, an ultrasound or other imaging tool, such as an X-ray or MRI, may be used to look at the bones of the leg and hip.

Treatment is possible with developmental dysplasia of the hip. Among the best and most effective forms of treatment is a brace called a Pavlik harness. In most cases, particularly if diagnosis occurs when the child is an infant, the brace will successfully treat the condition. If it does not, then traction or surgery may be recommended.


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