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Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip - Topic Overview

What is developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH)?

Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) is a hip problem a baby is born with or that happens in the first year of life. In this condition, the top of the thighbone doesn't fit securely into the hip socket. This problem may affect one or both hip joints.

In a normal hip camera.gif, the thighbone fits tightly into a cup-shaped socket in the pelvis, and it is held in place by muscles, tendons, and ligaments. But in DDH camera.gif, the hip socket may be too shallow or the tissues around the joint may be too loose.

  • In mild cases, the ligaments and other soft tissues aren't tight, so the thighbone (femur) moves around more than normal in the hip socket.
  • In more severe cases, the hip socket is more like a saucer than the deep cup that it should be. As a result:
    • The ball at the top of the thighbone (femoral head) may slip partway out of the hip socket. This is called subluxation.
    • The femoral head may slide completely out of the hip socket. This is called dislocation.

It's important to get DDH treated early. The longer it goes on, the more likely it is to cause long-term hip problems.

What causes DDH?

The exact cause of DDH is not known. But some things can raise your child's chances of having it, including:

  • Having a family history of DDH.
  • Being the firstborn child.
  • Being female.
  • Being born buttocks-first (breech position).

What are the symptoms?

DDH isn't painful, and your baby may not have any obvious signs of a hip defect. But some babies with this problem may have:

  • One leg that seems shorter than the other.
  • Extra folds of skin on the inside of the thighs.
  • A hip joint that moves differently than the other.

A child who is walking may:

  • Walk on the toes of one foot with the heel up off the floor.
  • Walk with a limp (or waddle if both hips are affected).

How is DDH diagnosed?

It is usually diagnosed during a newborn's physical exam. A doctor will move the baby's legs and look and listen for signs of a problem.

If your baby is older, your doctor may diagnose DDH during the physical exam at a well-baby checkup. But it may be hard to diagnose in a baby more than 1 to 3 months old. That's because the only outward sign may be a hip joint that is less mobile or flexible than normal.

If the doctor suspects DDH but the results of a physical exam aren't clear, your child might need to have an imaging test of the hip joint, such as an ultrasound or X-ray.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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