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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).
  • Having his or her legs swaddled tightly.

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).
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