What is hip dysplasia?
Although many parents are not aware, hip dysplasia is the most common condition among newborns. It occurs when the bones of the hip joint are not aligned correctly, thus causing the joint to wear out much faster. As many as one baby in twenty has loose hips at the time of birth. Most improve spontaneously, but approximately 2-3 babies per 1000 will require some form of treatment. The earlier hip dysplasia is detected, the easier it is to correct the condition without surgery; however, it is also a “silent” condition which may not manifest itself until later in life.
What can parents do to prevent and recognize hip dysplasia?
Orthopedists have identified a connection between hip dysplasia and tight swaddling where the infant’s legs are extended and wrapped tightly. According to Dr. Charles Price, pediatric orthopedist and director of the International Hip Dysplasia Institute (www.hipdysplasia.org), “Swaddling an infant has many positive effects such calming a crying baby and soothing pain in infants. Unfortunately many parents are taught to swaddle the baby’s entire body to create a tight cocoon, and this restriction of movement in the lower half of the body can lead to post-natal hip dysplasia.” One of the goals of the International Hip Dysplasia Institute is to offer parents hip-healthy swaddling techniques which can be viewed on their web site.
Since hip dysplasia does not cause pain nor keep your baby from sitting, crawling, and walking at a normal age, here are some signs to look for that may alert you to possible hip dysplasia are:
- Uneven buttocks creases where one crease is higher than the other
- When changing diapers, one or both legs don’t spread out as fully as they should.
- A consistent clicking or bumping sensation when changing diapers
- One leg appears shorter than the other
- An extra crease is noticed on the inside of the thigh suggesting that the thigh is thicker and shorter than it should be. This is more noticeable if only one side is involved
- After walking age you may notice:
- 1. Your child stands and walks with one foot on tiptoes with the heel off the floor (because of difference in leg lengths)
- 2. Visible limping on one side
- 3. If both sides are involved, there will be a waddling gait that is more exaggerated than a normal baby and excessive sway back posture in addition to the waddling gait.
An examination by an experienced physician is a good first step if you think your child has a hip problem. Visit www.hipdysplasia.org for more information.
– Dr. Charles Price, Director of the International Hip Dysplasia Institute and Pediatric Orthopedist at the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.