Hip Dysplasia

1 What is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is dislocation of your hip joint in which ball portion of the upper thighbone does not fit properly in the hip socket. This condition generally occurs at the time of birth and can be detected soon after birth and during well-baby visits.

Diagnosis in early infancy is beneficial as the problem can be corrected using a soft brace. For a hip dysplasia diagnosed after 2, surgery can relocate the bones so that the hip socket properly holds the ball of upper thighbone.

Symptoms of milder cases start appearing only during teen years or young adulthood. Injury to the cartilage lining the joint and the soft cartilage (labrum) attached to rim of the socket in the hip joint can result in hip labral tear.

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2 Symptoms

Usually hip dysplasia does not cause pain and no obvious signs and symptoms may be noticed in most cases. Infants and young adults may experience different sets of symptoms.

Signs and symptoms, if present, include:

  • Infants have legs that vary in length
  • Child walks with a limp.
  • Hips vary in flexibility.
  • In teenagers and young adults, activities like running can cause pain in groin. Sometimes, it can lead to osteoarthritis or a hip labral tear.
  • Hip instability

3 Causes

Hip dysplasia may be caused by lack of space in the womb. 

Hip joint is a type of joint called ball and socket joint. Normally, the ball of the upper thighbone fits properly into the socket of the hip.

Hip joint, at the time of birth, consists of soft cartilage that gradually develops into bone. Improper fit of the ball into the socket results into incomplete or shallow socket.

Some factors that cause reduced space in the womb include:

  • First pregnancy
  • Large baby
  • Breech birth (feet-first birth)

4 Making a Diagnosis

The diagnosis of hip dysplasia can be done during well-baby visits when doctors gently move an infant’s legs into various positions to see if the hip joint functions properly.

Diagnosis in young adults is often difficult. Imaging tests may be helpful to confirm the diagnosis in such cases.

5 Treatment

Treatment for hip dysplasia is determined by age and extent of the hip damage. For infants, a soft brace, such as a Pavlik harness, can correct the problem when worn for several months.

If your baby is older than 6 months, she/he may need to use a full-body cast for several months to hold the bones in correct position.

Sometimes, surgery is required to relocate the bones so that the hip socket properly holds the ball of upper thighbone.

Specialized surgeries for children and adults:

  1. Arthroscopic surgery: It is done in older children and adults in which a tube-like device containing a camera (arthroscope) is inserted into the joint through small incisions. Other surgical tools to repair the damaged joint can be inserted through other incisions in the joint.
  2. Periacetabular Osteotomy: It is used in more severe cases. This procedure involves firstly cutting the socket to free it from the pelvis, followed by shifting it to the right position to ensure proper fit of the ball into the socket.
  3. Hip Replacement Surgery: Your severely damaged hip joint can be replaced with an artificial hip joint.

6 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with hip dysplasia.


  • Sex: Hip dysplasia occurs more commonly in girls.
  • Family history
  • Breech birth (feet-first birth)


  • Over time, hip dysplasia can cause injury to the soft cartilage (labrum) attached to the rim of the socket in hip joint. This is called a hip labral tear.
  • It may lead to osteoarthritis.