Treatment for hip dysplasia depends on the child’s age:
Newborns: A newborn baby will be given a Pavlik harness. This device positions the thighbone correctly in the socket and holds the hip in place. It also tightens the ligaments surrounding the baby’s hip joint, and helps the hip socket form normally. The Pavlik harness is usually worn for about 1 to 2 months.
It may be uncomfortable for the first day or two, but there’s no need for parents to worry—the harness is not painful, and the baby will get used to the position quickly.
1 month to 6 months: Treatment for a young infant is similar to treatment for a newborn. The child’s thighbone will be repositioned in the socket using a device like a harness. A child will probably need to wear the harness full-time for at least six weeks, and part-time for another six weeks.
If the hip won’t stay in the correct position with the harness, the child may get a firmer device called an abduction brace. She may also need a small procedure called “closed reduction,” where the physician will move the thigh bone into the correct position and hold it in place with a body cast (also called a spica cast).
6 months to 2 years: A child this age will also be given a closed reduction procedure--meaning the physician will put pressure on her hip to align it correctly. She’ll also receive a spica cast.
Since her joint will have already been out of place for longer than a younger baby’s, she will probably need skin traction for a few weeks before the procedure. This means that adhesive tape or bandages will be placed near the fracture, and small weights will be added to them, putting pressure on the area. Traction prepares the tissues around her hip for re-positioning.
If a child is diagnosed with dysplasia when she’s older than 2, or if a closed reduction procedure doesn’t work, she may need surgery to realign the hip.
No matter the age of child, she needs to get treated as soon as possible. Delayed treatment can cause a hip deformity, leading to hip pain or difficulty walking. And if let untreated, hip dysplasia can cause a child to develop osteoarthritis—a painful hip disorder—down the line.