Female Doctor

Human hips are an engineering marvel. The ball-and-socket design of your hip joint allows you to move as you do. It’s simple and effective: the top of your leg is the ball. It fits neatly into the socket, which is part of your pelvis.

But with hip dysplasia, part of the joint doesn’t form the way it should. The hip socket doesn’t fully cover the ball part of your thigh bone. This makes your hip unstable.

Babies can be born with hip dysplasia, or adults may find out they have it later in life. Either way, there are treatments that can help.

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How Does Hip Dysplasia Happen?

There’s a lot we don’t know about what causes hip dysplasia, also called acetabular dysplasia. We do know it’s more common in girls, and that there’s a genetic component. In the United States, 1 to 2 babies per every 1,000 are born with hip dysplasia.

When a baby is born with this condition, doctors call it developmental dislocation of the hip (DDH).

Pediatricians are trained to look for DDH. They check for it by gently moving a baby’s legs into different positions. They’ll order an ultrasound if they suspect hip dysplasia.

Sometimes people don’t realize they have hip dysplasia until they’re older. A case can be so mild that doctors miss it, and symptoms only start to show up later in life.

What Does Hip Dysplasia Feel Like?

Kids don’t usually have symptoms. That’s one reason it sometimes goes undiagnosed.

Adolescents and adults do tend to have symptoms, though. These symptoms may get worse over time.

Hip dysplasia can feel like:

  • Groin pain, especially toward the front.
  • A frequent and uncomfortable popping, locking, or snapping in your hip joint.
  • Pain at night in your hip when sleeping.
  • A muscle ache in your hip.
  • Pain in your hip that gets worse if you stand a lot.
  • Pain during exercises that use your hips, such as walking and running.

How Is Hip Dysplasia Treated?

Harnesses and other treatments help babies with hip dysplasia. Sometimes children need surgery to correct the hip joint. While this may sound scary, children do well with this surgery and usually recover quickly.

Correcting hip dysplasia in a young person can help them avoid pain later on. In fact, hip dysplasia is the number one cause of osteoarthritis in the hips for people under age 60. This often causes debilitating pain, and leads people to seek hip replacement surgery.

There are various ways to treat hip dysplasia, and UPMC Orthopaedic Care has programs specializing in these options. The earlier you receive a diagnosis, the more options you have.

One of the first priorities is to reduce the wear and tear on your hip joint. If you’re an athlete, this can be a challenge, particularly if your sport is a pounding one (like running). You may need to do more cross training, and reduce the amount of high-impact activities.

Another element of treating hip dysplasia is physical therapy, which can help strengthen the muscles and ligaments around the hip joint. Your doctor may prescribe this to help increase your joint function and range of motion.

Your doctor also may prescribe an anti-inflammatory medicine. These may be oral drugs, like ibuprofen or naproxen, or injections, such as cortisone. These medicines can help reduce pain and may help you delay — or even avoid — surgery.

Will I Need Surgery for Hip Dysplasia?

Whether you need surgery depends on how severe your case is, and how much pain you have.

If you do need surgery, you have options, which your doctor will explain. Adults with hip dysplasia often need hip replacement surgery.

However, doctors try to postpone this option in people younger than age 40. A surgery called periacetabular osteotomy (PAO) can delay hip replacement for 10 to 20 years.

With specialists in each type of orthopaedic injury and condition, UPMC Orthopaedic Care has the experts to cater to your specific needs. Visit the Hip Preservation Program website to learn about treatment of both mild and severe hip-related problems, including hip dysplasia.

About UPMC Orthopaedic Care

As a national leader in advanced orthopaedic care, UPMC treats a full range of musculoskeletal disorders, from the acute and chronic to the common and complex. Whether you have bone, muscle, or joint pain, we provide access to UPMC’s vast network of support services for both surgical and nonsurgical treatments and a full continuum of care. As leaders in research and clinical trials with cutting-edge tools and techniques, UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside appears on U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of the top hospitals in the country for orthopaedics.