Hip Dysplasia (DDH) Know the Facts

DDH, or developmental dysplasia of the hip, is a condition that can cause the hip joints of a new-born to be dislocated, or prone to dislocation. This condition is more common in girls than boys (1 in 600 girls compared to 1 in 3,000 boys) and the left hip joint is affected more often than the right. It is also possible for both joints to present with DDH. This condition sounds extremely frightening and although it can be very severe, you will be glad to know that 95% of babies born with DDH are treated with complete success. With a new awareness of this disorder childcare and early learning centres are also now far more equipped to take babies with DDH into their care, making treatment regimens less debilitating.

The thigh bone (femur) ends with a rounded ball, which should fit neatly into its hollowed out socket on the pelvis, and remain anchored there by the ligaments. However when this socket is too shallow, or these ligaments are not taut enough, the femur can slip out of place causing dislocation – or hip dysplasia.

Luckily your baby is routinely checked at birth and it is very rare for the condition to be missed. However midwives, healthcare nurses and paediatricians will all be familiar with the tell-tale signs of DDH. No doubt as a doting parent you would also like to know what to look out for…

If the problem is only affecting one side then you are likely to see:
Asymmetrical skin creases along the buttocks and thighs.
One knee appearing higher than the other.

And generally you should be aware of:
Reduced mobility in the hip.
Any clunking sounds as the leg is gently rotated.
Any unusual stretching of the skin around the anal or perennial area.

There are various causes of DDH, it can be inherited, linked to the presence of a congenital disorder, from complications in breech or first time delivery, or even from being one of a multiple birth.

The most effective treatment for the majority of DDH cases with be a Pavlik harness. The cleverly devised harness keeps the joint(s) in place while the baby’s skeleton grows, and is often only needed for 6-12 weeks. This might look unwieldy and rather uncomfortable to us adults, but remember how adaptable and pliably these tiny ones still are! Apparently, most babies are fairly oblivious and take the harness in their stride – quite literally!

Some babies are just born with slightly loose hip ligaments and this is nothing to worry about, as long as you and your childcare centre are aware to keep an eye on things and be mindful. For example when wrapping them in a cosy blanket, just remember to leave a little room for the legs to move and the knees to bend.

And the choice of lullaby? Well, we’ll leave that to you!