Why Do My Baby’s Hips Look Funny? - Infant Hip Dysplasia And Treatment Options

You notice that your baby's hips and legs are difficult to spread apart when changing diapers. When helping them stand up for the first few times, their hips looked uneven. You may be seeing the signs of hip dysplasia. Your child's hips aren't growing properly, but there are ways to correct this. Learn how your child may have developed this condition and the ways orthopedic doctors are treating them.

What is Hip Dysplasia?

This condition is due to the hip joints not being properly aligned during development. Conditions in the womb before birth can cause this. It can happen during birth when the hip joints become more flexible to allow the baby to move through the birth canal easier. One or both hips become dislocated, and if they remain that way, the development of that joint does not occur normally. If not noticed, or if left untreated, your child will grow into adulthood and may have pain when walking or develop early osteoarthritis in their hips.

Diagnosis of Hip Dysplasia

If only one hip is affected, you'll see a slight difference in the shape and size of your child's buttocks when viewed from behind. It is more difficult for you to see a problem in your child's hips if both hips are affected. Often there are no symptoms until your child is in their adolescence.

An orthopedic doctor can often feel that the hips are dislocated or loose in their sockets. X-rays and ultrasound are used to determine the extent of the dislocation, and if there is any abnormal bone growth in the hip. The treatment options available depend on the level of dislocation and amount of bone and tissue preventing the hips from forming correctly.

Treating Hip Dysplasia

Should the child grow up with hip dysplasia, they may develop pain in their hips, an irregular gait, and arthritis in their hips. There are several ways to treat the condition, and the sooner treatment is started, the more likely it is that the hips can be completely returned to normal.

Up until a few months old, there are a few non-invasive techniques that hold the hips in the correct position as the joints develop. In older children, surgical intervention is needed to change the shape of the bones and muscles. Current non-invasive treatments include:

Braces - Flexible braces, such as the Pavlik harness and rigid hip abduction braces, hold your child's legs in the proper position as the hip joints continue to develop. Flexible braces are used when only a slight change is needed. Rigid braces are used when the dislocation is severe and the legs must be held in an extreme position for a few weeks.

Traction - This is used less often, thanks to the development of better leg braces. This may be used to stretch the ligaments in the hip prior to surgery.

Closed Reduction - More invasive than the above approaches, this technique requires the use of general anesthesia but no surgical incision. Once your child is asleep, the orthopedist manipulates the ball of the hip into the socket of the pelvis. A brace or cast may be used after the procedure to keep the hip components in place while they continue to develop.

Surgical Treatment

In older children, the hip joint has developed beyond what good the non-invasive techniques can do. Surgery within the hip joint is required to reconstruct the child's hip.

Open reduction - Tissue or ligaments may get in between the ball and socket, preventing the doctor from doing the closed reduction. A surgical incision must be done to move the tissue and allow the hip components to come together.

Pelvic Osteotomy

This procedure reshapes the socket when it has developed too shallow to hold the ball part of the hip joint.

Femoral Osteotomy

This procedure reshapes the ball on the femur when it will not fit securely into the socket.

Regular checkups with a children's doctor will help spot any irregularities of your infant's hips. But if you notice any issues when your child is crawling or standing, let a doctor like Pediatric Associates of Alexandria know, so treatment can be started soon. You will give your child's hips a chance to develop normally.