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.
This soft, flexible harness gently aligns your baby’s hips while letting their legs move a little. They’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 they are older.
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 their legs are turned out. The pediatrician will determine how long it should be worn, and the splint can be removed for bathtime and diapering. When a newborn wears it during their first week of life, the von Rosen splint has a success rate of over 95%.
It’s not common in the U.S., but newborn hip dysplasia is sometimes treated with traction. While your baby lies on their back, a system of weights and pulleys keeps their 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.
If a brace or splint doesn’t help, your doctor may recommend surgery once your child is at least 6 months old or is 6 months or older at the time of diagnosis.
The most common operation is called a “closed reduction.” First, your baby will get medicine that makes them sleepy. Then, a surgeon gently pushes the “ball” of their 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 approximately 3 months while their joint heals. This is often followed by a fixed abduction brace. Both give support as they rebuild strength and movement in their 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. They can also adjust your baby’s hip joint so the top of the thighbone fits the way it should.
Your child will need follow-up with the orthopedic surgeon.