What Is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia

The hip is a ball and socket joint. The ball is called the femoral head and it is the top part of the thigh bone (femur). The socket, also called the acetabulum, is part of the pelvic bone.

Hip dysplasia happens when the hip joint is incorrectly shaped, or the femoral head is not sitting correctly in the hip socket. The condition is most commonly diagnosed in infants and young children, though it can also occur during adolescence and into adulthood. The cause of hip dysplasia in adulthood is not completely understood.

Hip dysplasia causes pain in your hips, and if left untreated may cause you to develop degenerative hip arthritis, such as osteoarthritis.

Diagnosis of Hip Dysplasia

If your health care providers believe you may have hip dysplasia, they may conduct several tests, including:

  • Observing you while you walk. Many people with hip dysplasia have a limp.
  • Moving the affected hip in different directions. If you have hip dysplasia, these tests may cause sharp pain in the groin.
  • Imaging exams: X-rays, CT scans and MRI exams can provide information about the anatomy of your hip and show any damage to the joint and cartilage that’s already present.

Treatment at Penn

The treatment of mild hip dysplasia may include using medications to relieve pain, changes in activity to accommodate your condition or physical therapy. If your hip dysplasia is more severe, though, surgery may be recommended to restore normal hip anatomy. Your health care team at Penn Medicine can develop a care plan that’s most suited to your condition and that will help you prevent osteoarthritis.

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