Developmental Dysplasia of the hip (DDH)

All children in the UK get their hips checked by a doctor at approximately 6 weeks, 8 months and also at 2 years. This is an important test that needs to be carried out as they will be looking for signs of developmental dysplasia of the hip (commonly referred to as Clicky Hips).

DDH is where the ball and the socket hip joint do not develop properly, meaning they do not fit snugly together and become loose or even dislocated. DDH affects about 1 child in every 1,000.

It is not known exactly why some certain babies suffer from DDH although some babies may be more prone to DDH than others, for example:

  • If other family members have suffered
  • If baby is born in breech position
  • If baby is born late
  • If baby has other limb problems
  • If baby has been swaddled too tightly around the hips and legs
  • Girls are more likely to have DDH than boys

Shortly after birth, your midwife or doctor will check your baby by manipulating your baby’s hips to check that the hip joints are stable.  Your doctor will open your baby’s legs wide and bend and straighten them, they will listen for any abnormal noise and feel for any jerky movements.

The hip test is repeated at the six-week review and also by your health visitor at your baby’s 8-12 month review. Sometimes a baby is referred for an ultrasound or x-ray if the doctor feels there may be a problem.

What happens if my child has Clicky Hips?
If your doctor is concerned for your child’s hip, your baby will be referred for an ultrasound or x-ray to determine whether there is a problem. If the problem is detected before your baby can walk, your child will need to wear a splint for up to 12 weeks as this keeps the hips in position and allows them time to develop correctly.

Some cases of DDH heal naturally without need for medical intervention and your doctor will inform you if this is the case with your child.

However, in some cases DDH is not found until a child can walk and this is harder to treat. Sometimes a plaster cast is used or sometimes a child will have to stay in hospital for a procedure known as ‘traction’. Traction usually takes about three weeks and involves using weights and gravity to move the hip into the socket.

In rare occasions, your child may need a small operation in hospital and then the hip and leg will need to be put into a plaster cast to heal.

Your child will then require extra and close monitoring throughout their childhood. However, it is important to remember that most children with DDH or clicky hips as a baby, go on to have a full and active life with no major problems.

If you have any questions regarding this matter, speak to your health visitor or doctor.

by Jenny, mum to William and James

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