Finding out that your child might have hip dysplasia can be a challenging time. Here’s all the resources you need to understand what this is and how it’s treated – plus some helpful tips shared by our online community.
Hip dysplasia, or clicky hips, occurs when baby’s hips are growing. The femoral head (thighbone) sits in a cup-shaped socket in the pelvis. In hip dysplasia the femoral head does not sit firmly in the socket and can prevent correct hip development.
8 infants a day are diagnosed with hip dysplasia in Australia. Despite this, the likelihood of a parent being aware of the condition, prior to a diagnosis of it for their child, is only 57%. This limited awareness is contributing to the rising number of those diagnosed late with this potentially life changing condition. (Healthy Hips Australia)
Investigation of Hip Dysplasia
According to Health Direct investigation for hip dysplasia is routine in the early days of baby’s life. All newborn babies are examined for hip dysplasia in their first few days of life. These tests are repeated again at 6 weeks and may be done at other appointments with the doctor or child and family health nurse.
When looking for hip dysplasia, maternal health nurses and doctors will check for a baby who may have:
- Uneven creases near the buttock
- Different length legs
- Abnormal leg movement
Older children may also:
- Sit or walk late
- Walks or stands leaning to one side
- Waddle when they walk
If there are any concerns the doctor or maternal health work may recommend an ultrasound of your child’s hips.
Treatment of hip dysplasia
Treatment depends on baby’s age, how severe the condition is, and whether you have developed arthritis.
In babies, the wearing of a soft brace (known as a Pavlik harness) for 6 to 10 weeks may help the hip develop normally. A small number of babies may need to have surgery or spend time in a plaster cast.
There are various treatment options available for hip dysplasia including several braces that can help hold the bone and socket in place to allow for correct structural development.
Treating hip dysplasia with a rhino brace
A rhino brace will help keep the hip joints in a frog leg position. This encourages the ball of the joint to sit in the socket which allows development of the shallow part of the socket.
The Rhino brace allows some movement. Infants can learn to roll, sit, commando crawl and toddlers can actually walk in the brace. Crawling on hands and knees is not possible when a rhino brace is worn.
Why checking baby’s hips is important
According to Healthy Hips Australia hip health is extremely important;
Left undiagnosed it’s one of the leading causes of early-onset arthritis of the hip and possibly, the need for a hip replacement; it is a significant public health issue. Treatment is optimised when diagnosis occurs within the first 3 months of life.
All parents, and parents- to-be, are urged to educate themselves about the risk factors for and potential signs of hip dysplasia, and to ensure their children’s hips are routinely checked from birth right through until 3.5 years of age.
Important Points to Remember (from Melbourne Children’s Hospital)
- Treatment for DDH varies between children and depends on how bad the condition is.
- Treatment may include a brace, a plaster cast called a hip spica, movement of the hip into position under anaesthetic, or surgery to the ligaments around the joint.
- Children will often need to wear a brace or cast for several months.
- If DDH is not treated, your child may develop a painless limp. Over time, painful arthritis will develop in the untreated hip joint.
- It is important to check for and treat DDH as early as possible.
For more information on hip dysplasia
- Kids Health Info fact sheet: Pavlik Harness for DDH
- Kids Health Info fact sheet: Denis Browne Bar for DDH
- Kids Health Info fact sheet: Hip spica plaster
- Kids Health Info video: Wrapping (swaddling) your baby safely
- International Hip Dysplasia Institute
Our community shared their experiences on hip dysplasia in response to a community question – here’s what they had to say*:
(Please note community responses are NOT medical advice and are only other parents sharing their own experience)
Community Question: My daughter is 10 months old and has been diagnosed with hip dysplasia. She has a rhino brace and has to wear it for 3 months. She was previously extremely active and now is limited with her movements causing her to get very frustrated. She is also not sleeping very well anymore as she can’t move around in her bed. Can anyone give me tips or advice for getting through these months?
- My daughter was in a Spica cast for three months for hip dysplasia, also very active 15 month old beforehand. She adapted really well to the cast but did get frustrated when she reached the limits of what she could do (like all back babies). We never got the hang of sleeping through the night as she couldn’t role over. They do get more used to it and better at sleeping though. The months feels like forever at this stage but it will be over. Alice
- Don’t stress it. My son had hip dysplasia due to breech birth. The time flies. Before you know it it will be over & she will be charging ahead & this will be nothing but a minor inconvenience. Michelle
- My 6 month old is in a rhino brace and has been for nearly 2 months. Try rolling up a towel under the feet for extra support when sleeping. Also I’ve found this group to be great. Lee
- My daughter is 10 months old and has been in the rhino for 2 weeks now. She gets frustrated as well and has had disrupted sleep but it is getting better. I roll up a soft blanket and put it under her legs when she’s on her back. I have a baby carrier and have been using that more as well. Is your daughter in the brace 24/7? Kristen
- Check with your doctor and see if it’s ok to baby wear her. Get a Manduca ergo or Tula. It will position her in an “m” position. Danielle