Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH)

If your child has been diagnosed with developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH), you may have a lot of questions. At the Children's Health℠ Andrews Institute, our pediatric orthopedic physicians have extensive experience treating the full range of pediatric hip conditions, so they are prepared to provide answers.

What is Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH)?

Developmental dysplasia of the hip, also known as DDH, is a hip condition found in babies and young children that causes the hip joint to form abnormally.

What are the signs and symptoms of Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH)?

The hip is a “ball-and-socket” joint. The ball is the rounded top, or head, of the femur (thigh bone). The socket is a cup in the acetabulum (hip socket). Normally, the ball fits into the socket easily, moving and rotating freely in the joint.

But some babies are born with hip sockets that are too shallow for the thighbone to fit properly. This makes the thighbone slip out of place, either partially or completely. When an unstable thighbone fully slips out of the hip socket, it’s called a dislocation.

Signs of dysplasia include:

  • Differing leg lengths
  • Uneven fat folds on the thigh or buttocks
  • “Clicking” sound when rotating your baby’s hip
  • Limited range of motion in the affected leg

When your baby is treated early, our skilled orthopedic specialists can help avoid issues with growth and development using noninvasive techniques.

How is Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH) diagnosed?

Most cases of developmental dysplasia of the hip are detected at birth or during a routine newborn checkup. In some cases, though, signs may not develop until after birth.

At the Andrews Institute, our orthopedic physicians identify dysplasia with the latest diagnostic tools, including:

  • Physical exam: Looks at your baby’s hips, to test for leg length discrepancies, limited range of motion or joint dislocation
  • Ultrasound: Safe and painless test for newborns and young infants that uses sound waves to make detailed images of the hip
  • X-ray: Easy, quick and painless test for older infants and young children, using invisible electromagnetic energy beams to take detailed images of the hip bones

We know you don’t want to be kept waiting to learn if your baby has dysplasia. Whenever possible, we perform imaging, make a diagnosis and give you a clear treatment plan at your first appointment.

What are the causes of Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH)?

Possible causes and risk factors of dysplasia include:

  • Position of the fetus in the womb
  • Breech births
  • Family history of dysplasia
  • Gender - the condition is more common in females than males

How is Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH) treated?

If dysplasia is found in the first few months of life, it can almost always be treated successfully with noninvasive treatments such as harnessing or bracing. In some cases, surgery may be needed to put the hip back in the joint.

When your child is diagnosed with dysplasia, we work with you to develop an effective treatment plan to meet your child’s unique needs. Our goal is to provide your child with the most comprehensive, personalized care possible.

Our expert orthopedic physicians work with you to design the best treatment plan for your child. Our goal is to use the most effective and least invasive treatment possible.

Treatment options depend on several factors, including:

  • Severity of the condition, and whether it’s a partial or complete dislocation of the hip joint
  • Age and skeletal development

Our treatments include:

  • Pavlik harness: For babies 0-6 months old, this soft harness keeps the babies legs in a flexed position, allowing the joint to develop normally.
  • Closed Reduction: For children 6-18 months old, this non-surgical procedure manually realigns the hip into its proper position for healing. Afterwards, your child may need a brace or body cast to hold the thighbone in the hip socket while it heals.
  • Surgery: When noninvasive techniques are unsuccessful or a child is older than 18 months, your physician may recommend surgery to realign the hip and put the thighbone back into its socket. After surgery, your child will wear a special body cast to promote healing.

Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH) Doctors and Providers

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How common is developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH)?

    Some hip instability is common in newborn infants. However, dislocations are much less common, affecting just 1 in 1,000 newborns. First-born baby girls are more likely to have dysplasia.

  • What happens if DDH is not treated early?

    When babies are treated early for dysplasia, physicians can help avoid growth and development problems. But when treatment is delayed, children may suffer from limb length discrepancies that can cause pain, discomfort and a noticeable limp. 


Learn more about developmental dysplasia of the hip in children: