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Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip

Written by Ada’s Medical Knowledge Team

Updated on

What is developmental dysplasia of the hip?

Developmental dysplasia of the hip, or simply hip dysplasia, is a failure for the normal hip joint to form before birth. It may be caused by poor positioning of the legs in the womb. This doesn't cause any pain to young children, but can cause a limp and osteoarthritis as the child grows. Hip dysplasia can be successfully treated, especially if diagnosed and treated in babies or young children.


In a normal hip, the upper end of the thigh bone (femur) is surrounded by the hip socket (acetabulum). In a dysplastic hip, there is an abnormality in the formation of either the head of the femur, the acetabulum, or the other supportive soft tissues. As a result, the contact between the femur and the acetabulum is loose and unstable, causing frequent hip dislocations. Hip dysplasia is more common in girls and people with who have family members with the condition. Within certain ethnic groups this condition tends to be more common, such as Native Americans and Laplanders. Other risk factors include being the first-born child or a breech baby.


Babies will usually have no symptoms of hip dysplasia, though it might be possible to see a difference in the length or appearance of their legs, hips and buttocks. Toddlers with hip dysplasia may walk later than other children, and children with hip dysplasia who have not been diagnosed may suffer hip pain and walk with a waddle, limp or bowed legs.


All babies should be tested for hip dysplasia in the first weeks of their life. This is usually done by a doctor assessing the movement of the hips, or, increasingly, by ultrasound. X-rays of the hip joint can help to determine hip dysplasia in cases where there is uncertainty.


Hip dysplasia is treated by placing the baby in a harness or brace for a period of a few months to keep the legs in the correct position to allow the hips to form normally. If this is not successful or the developmental dysplasia of the hip is diagnosed later in life, surgery is necessary to reconstruct the hip joint.

Other names for developmental dysplasia of the hip

  • Congenital hip dislocation
  • Congenital dysplasia of the hip
  • Congenital hip dysplasia
  • Hip dysplasia

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