If Your Newborn Has Hip Dysplasia

Babies born with hip dysplasia have a shallow hip joint that can slip easily out of place.

Over time, the problem can lead to pain, one leg that’s shorter than the other, and arthritis. But when you find and treat it early, many babies can have a normal hip joint and won’t have any other problems.

The goal of hip dysplasia treatment is to put the “ball” of your baby’s thighbone back into the cup-like hip socket where it belongs. Your doctor can do this in a few different ways.

Pavlik Harness

This soft, flexible harness gently aligns your baby’s hips while letting his legs move a little. He’ll likely wear it for around 12 weeks, but you may be able to remove it for diaper changes and baths.

Every week or two, your doctor will check the fit of the harness. An imaging test like an X-ray will show if and when the joint is getting better.

If a Pavlik harness helps, there’s a good chance that your baby’s hip will stay healthy. Still, your doctor may want to check it again once he’s older.

Fixed-Abduction Brace

Like the Pavlik harness, this special brace keeps your baby’s hip in the proper position so it develops the way it’s supposed to. The difference is that this brace is very stiff and doesn’t allow much movement.

Your doctor may choose this brace if a Pavlik harness doesn’t help.

Von Rosen Splint

This splint keeps your baby’s hips flexed to an angle over 90 degrees while his legs are turned out. He’ll need to wear it for 6 to 12 weeks, even during bath times. When a newborn wears it during his first week of life, the von Rosen splint has a success rate of over 95%.

Traction

It’s not common in the U.S., but newborn hip dysplasia is sometimes treated with traction. While your baby lies on his back, a system of weights and pulleys keeps his legs in a raised position. The idea is that it stretches the ligaments and helps hip surgeries work better later on, but not all doctors agree that it works.

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Surgery

If a brace or splint doesn’t help, your doctor may recommend surgery once your child is at least 6 months old.

The most common operation is called a “closed reduction.” First, your baby will get medicine that makes him sleepy. Then, a surgeon gently pushes the “ball” of his thighbone joint into the hip socket where it belongs. No cuts are needed.

After a closed reduction, your baby will need to wear a stiff body cast for at least 3 months while his joint heals. This is often followed by a fixed abduction brace. Both give support as he rebuilds strength and movement in his hip.

Closed reduction doesn’t work for about 10% to 20% of babies. If that’s the case, your doctor may choose to do an “open reduction.” This is a more complicated surgery. Through a small cut, your doctor can adjust muscles, reshape bones, or release tight tendons that may be causing problems. She can also adjust your baby’s hip joint so the top of the thighbone fits the way it should.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 25, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

Stanford Children’s Health/Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital: “Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip.”

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: “Developmental Dislocation (Dysplasia) of the Hip (DDH).”

International Hip Dysplasia Institute: “Child Treatment Methods,” “Pavlik Harness,” “Traction,” “Closed Reduction,” “Von Rosen Splint.”

Seattle Children’s Hospital: “Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip Treatment.”

Hospital for Special Surgery: “Developmental Pediatric Hip Dysplasia -- An Overview.”

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