Hip dysplasia

What is hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is an instability of the hip joint that develops at a young age. There are multiple causes of hip dysplasia.

The hip is a ball-and-socket joint that is protected by cartilage. The ball is called the femoral head. The socket is known as the acetabulum. Cartilage is the smooth surface that helps the ball glide in the socket. Tissue known as the labrum provides stability to the joint.

Hip dysplasia causes the joint to become unstable because the socket is too shallow for the femoral head to rotate properly. When this happens, the joint wears out faster than it should, causing arthritis. The cartilage and labrum become damaged and torn. Unfortunately, damage to the cartilage is not reversible.

Hip dysplasia leads to instability of the hip and puts too much pressure on the cartilage. This can make walking difficult. Pain and inflammation in the joint may eventually require medical treatment.

How is hip dysplasia treated?

If the hip joint is completely worn out, a hip replacement may be necessary. Before developing significant arthritis, young patients may be able to undergo a hip preservation surgery called periacetabular osteotomy (PAO). This procedure is a realignment of the socket, which stabilizes the hip and keeps the cartilage from being overloaded.

In certain cases, the joint’s shape is abnormal in a way that creates tears in the labrum. A torn labrum can sometimes be treated with arthroscopic surgery. The bone deformity should be corrected at the same time that the torn labrum is fixed. This ensures that the hip dysplasia is getting long-term treatment.

Can hip dysplasia be treated without surgery?

Because the joint itself has not formed correctly, surgery is an option for hip dysplasia. Some lifestyle changes can help keep the hip joint as healthy as possible. Losing weight or physical therapy are two examples of ways to relieve the pressure on the hip joint before surgical treatment.

What research is being done on hip dysplasia?

University of Iowa Health Care researchers are using biomechanical analysis to try to find the optimum position of the socket with PAO surgery. This innovative technique is advancing the understanding of how doctors can help patients with dysplasia. We are also using innovative techniques to improve communication with our patients.

Last reviewed: 
January 2018

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