Under normal circumstances, your hips are formed by a ball that fits neatly inside a socket and, together, they provide you with range of motion and support. When you have hip dysplasia, this ball-and-socket connection isn’t so neat, which can cause the joint to wear down more quickly, leaving you in pain.
If you or your child has been newly diagnosed with hip dysplasia, you likely have questions. While we can’t answer everything here, hip specialist Dr. Brian White and the rest of the team here at Western Orthopaedics want to focus on this specific hip problem in this month’s blog.
Hip dysplasia — a common problem
Hip dysplasia is a fairly common musculoskeletal issue. To put some numbers to the condition, the International Hip Dysplasia Institute reports that:
- One in 10 babies are born with hip instability
- One in 100 infants are treated for hip dysplasia
- Adult hip dysplasia is nine times more common than infant dysplasia
- One in 10 hip replacements are due to hip dysplasia
While we can go on, the point is that hip dysplasia is common, which means we do have extensive experience treating this structural problem.
What causes hip dysplasia
Most cases of hip dysplasia occur during fetal development when the ball (the head of the femur) and the socket (an area called the acetabulum in your hip bone) are out of position. When the baby is born, these bones are soft and begin to harden, but if the femoral head is out of alignment, the socket may not fully conform to the ball. As a result, the socket is more shallow and unable to contain the ball with adequate stability.
If the instability is immediately noticed after birth, a pediatric orthopedic specialist may take the appropriate measures, such as a brace or surgical intervention.
In most cases, however, mild or moderate hip dysplasia doesn’t make itself known until much later as the joint wears down prematurely because of the misalignment.
Complications due to hip dysplasia
If your socket can’t accommodate the ball properly, the soft connective tissues that hold the joint together and provide easy gliding can break down prematurely. More specifically, the ring of tissue that surrounds your hip socket — your labrum — can break down and/or tear. Or, osteoarthritis can develop as the articular cartilage that covers the bones in your hip joint breaks down.
Treating hip dysplasia
As we mentioned, moderate-to-severe infant and child hip dysplasia is often treated with bracing or surgical correction.
Sometimes the hip dysplasia doesn’t begin to cause problems until much later, and Dr. White specializes in two later-in-life treatments:
- Hip preservation surgery, including arthroscopic repair of the labral tears
- Hip replacement surgery in which Dr. White replaces the ball and socket with artificial parts that fit together better
These treatments are designed for adults who’ve already incurred significant damage in their hip joints due to hip dysplasia.
If we do catch the problem before irreparable damage occurs, we will likely recommend physical therapy as a sound treatment option. Through physical therapy, you can take the pressure off the bones in your hip joint by strengthening the supporting tissues. Please note, however, that most cases of adult hip dysplasia are only discovered once painful symptoms set in due to a premature breakdown in the joint.
If you have more questions about your treatment options for hip dysplasia, we invite you to contact one of our two offices in Denver or Arvada, Colorado.