Developmental dysplasia of the hip

Last updated: January 24, 2023

Summarytoggle arrow icon

Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) refers to hip instability, subluxation/dislocation of the femoral head, and/or acetabular dysplasia in a developing hip joint. The etiology is not yet fully understood but a breech presentation and family history of DDH are the most important risk factors. The clinical features depend on the age of the child. During the first 6 months, the child will be asymptomatic but the hip can be easily dislocated, and a clunk is felt during a hip examination. As the child grows older, contractures develop and abduction of the hip becomes limited. Deformities and leg length discrepancies also develop. A patient with DDH is at increased risk of accelerated osteoarthritis. Since DDH is a common congenital abnormality, all newborns must be screened by physical examination for DDH. Additional screening with imaging is recommended for children with a family history of DDH, a history of breech presentation, and/or clinical features of DDH. Ultrasonography is the imaging modality of choice for infants younger than 4 months, whereas x-rays are used for older children. The goal of treatment is to reduce and maintain the femoral head into the acetabulum as early as possible to allow the hip joint to develop normally. A rigid harness is used in children younger than 6 months. Children 6–18 months of age should be treated with closed reduction, while children older than 18 months should be treated with open reduction. Following either closed or open reduction, the hip should be immobilized in a hip spica cast. The prognosis is not good if treatment is initiated after 6 months.

Epidemiologytoggle arrow icon

  • Incidence: most common congenital abnormality of skeletal development [1]
  • Sex: : > (4–5:1) [2]
  • Racial/regional background [1]
    • High incidence in Native American, Eastern European, and Sami populations
    • Low incidence in Chinese and black populations

Epidemiological data refers to the US, unless otherwise specified.

Etiologytoggle arrow icon

Pathophysiologytoggle arrow icon

Clinical featurestoggle arrow icon

Age Clinical features [3]
< 6 months
  • Asymptomatic
  • Barlow sign: a palpable clunk caused by hip dislocation when the hip is flexed and adducted with application of downward pressure
  • Ortolani sign: a palpable clunk caused by hip reduction when the hip is flexed and abducted while applying upward pressure
  • Possibly Galeazzi sign
6–18 months
  • Inability to abduct the hip
  • Barlow and Ortolani sign disappear
  • Prominent Galeazzi sign: unequal knee height and apparent shorter femur when child lies supine with hips and knees flexed
  • Asymmetrical gluteal folds may be present.
> 18 months

A positive Barlow sign shows that the reduced hip is subluxatable or dislocatable. A positive Ortolani sign shows that a dislocated hip is reducible.

Leg length discrepancy, Galeazzi sign, and/or asymmetrical gluteal folds may be absent in patients with bilateral DDH.

Diagnosticstoggle arrow icon

Screening [4]

Imaging [4]

Ultrasound is the imaging technique of choice for diagnosis of DDH in infants less than 4 months while x-ray is the imaging modality of choice for infants older than 4 months.

Treatmenttoggle arrow icon

Differential diagnosestoggle arrow icon

See “Differential diagnosis of pediatric hip pain.”

The differential diagnoses listed here are not exhaustive.

Complicationstoggle arrow icon

We list the most important complications. The selection is not exhaustive.

Prognosistoggle arrow icon

  • The outcomes of children with DDH who receive early treatment are generally good. [3]
  • The reappearance of a U shaped acetabular teardrop shadow (Köhler's shadow) after reduction is an indicator of good hip function.
  • Factors associated with a poor prognosis [5]
    • Late initiation of treatment (especially after 6 months)
    • Need for open reduction
    • Failure of a first-line treatment
    • Possibly, bilateral hip dislocation

Referencestoggle arrow icon

  1. Loder RT, Skopelja EN. The epidemiology and demographics of hip dysplasia.. ISRN Orthop. 2011; 238607.doi: 10.5402/2011/238607 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  2. Ortiz-Neira CL, Paolucci EO, Donnon T. A meta-analysis of common risk factors associated with the diagnosis of developmental dysplasia of the hip in newborns. Eur J Radiol. 2012; 81 (3): p.e344-e351.doi: 10.1016/j.ejrad.2011.11.003 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  3. Kotlarsky P. Developmental dysplasia of the hip: What has changed in the last 20 years?. World Journal of Orthopedics. 2015; 6 (11): p.886.doi: 10.5312/wjo.v6.i11.886 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  4. Mulpuri K, Song KM, Gross RH, et al. Detection and Nonoperative Management of Pediatric Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip in Infants up to Six Months of Age: Evidence-based Clinical Practice Guideline. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2015; 23 (3): p.202-205.doi: 10.5435/JAAOS-D-15-00006 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  5. Sewell MD, Rosendahl K, Eastwood DM. Developmental dysplasia of the hip. BMJ. 2009; 339 (nov24 2): p.b4454-b4454.doi: 10.1136/bmj.b4454 . | Open in Read by QxMD

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