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Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip in Children


Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH)

is a condition that prevents parts of your child's hip joints from fitting together correctly.

Normal Hip Joint

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Unstable hips that pop in and out with movement
  • Extra folds or wrinkles on the thigh
  • One leg that is shorter than the other
  • Pops and clicks heard or felt when your child moves his hips
  • Problems crawling, walking, or moving

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your child feels lightheaded, short of breath, and has chest pain.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child's splint or cast gets damaged or breaks.
  • Your child's skin around his toes or hips is blue, cold, or numb.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child's pain is getting worse, even after he has taken his pain medicine.
  • Your child's skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Treatment for DDH

depends on your child's age and how bad the deformity is. The head of your child's femur may need to be put back into the hip socket. This will allow his hip to develop normally and help him walk or move correctly.

  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your child's healthcare provider how to give this medicine safely.
  • A splint called a Pavlik harness holds the hip in place. This harness makes the head of the femur fit correctly into the hip socket. After a few months of wearing the harness, your child's DDH may be slowly corrected.
  • A cast may be needed if your child is already walking when his DDH is diagnosed. Healthcare providers may place him in a cast that covers him from the chest down to his legs or knees. The cast will prevent his hips from moving and allow proper healing.
    Hip Spica Cast
  • Closed reduction is a procedure to realign a deformed bone or bring the hip joint back to its normal position. This is done by moving the hips and femur without opening the skin.
  • Surgery and a hip brace may also be used to fix and correct your child's hip problem.
  • Traction pulls on the hip or thigh bones to pull them back into place. A pin may be put in your child's bone or cast, and hooked to ropes and a pulley. Weight is hung on the rope to help stretch the soft tissues around the hip bones. This helps the hip fit into the hip socket.

Prevent blood clots:

Your child may be at risk for blood clots if he has limited movement. Ask your child's healthcare provider if your child needs to elevate his legs above the level of his heart. Elevation will keep blood from staying in his legs and may prevent blood clots from forming. As pain decreases, your child may need to start moving or walking to improve blood circulation and bone healing.

Manage your child's DDH:

  • Your child may need more rest than he realizes as he heals. Quiet play will keep your child safely busy so he does not become restless and risk hurting himself. Have your child read or draw quietly when he is awake. Follow instructions for how much rest your child should get while he heals.
  • Talk to your child's healthcare provider about exercise and play for your child. Together you can plan the best exercise program for your child. It is best to start slowly and do more as he gets stronger. Exercise will help make his bones and muscles stronger.
  • Use a car seat and safety vest in the car. These are made for children in spica casts and Pavlik harnesses. They should be used while your child is in a car. Ask where you can get a car seat or safety vest for your child.
  • Ask your child's healthcare provider how to use a hip braces correctly. To keep your child from falling, remove loose carpeting from the floor. Have him use chairs with side arms and hard cushions to make it easier to get out of a chair. You may want to put a chair or a commode inside the shower.
  • Take your child to physical and occupational therapy as directed. A physical therapist teaches your child exercises to help him improve movement and strength. An occupational therapist teaches your child skills to help with his daily activities.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip in Children (Ambulatory Care)

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Further information

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