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Hip Dysplasia

Our hips are ball and socket joints. The ball is called the head of the femur and the socket is called the acetabulum. The socket covers the head, but sometimes it doesn’t develop properly. About 1 or 2 babies out of 1000 are born with this condition, but sometimes it is not diagnosed until adulthood.

What is hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia occurs when the socket is too shallow for the head of the femur. This can create extra stresses in the hip joint causing it to wear out. This often results in arthritis which is painful and limits mobility.

What are the symptoms of hip dysplasia?

Babies are carefully examined after birth to see if they have hip problems. The legs might be different lengths, and when the child starts to walk, they might have a limp. One hip could also be less flexible when compared to the other.

Sometimes hip dysplasia isn’t obvious until later in life. Pain in the groin, thigh and knee can be the first symptoms, particularly during and after exercise. You might feel that the hip gives way, or locks and feel a “popping” sensation when the hip is moved.

What causes hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is a congenital disorder, which means that it happens during the development of the foetus. It can’t be prevented, but there is often a family history of the condition.

There are some factors that are known to be associated with an increased risk of hip dysplasia. These include:

  • Female baby
  • First pregnancy
  • Family history
  • A larger baby
  • Baby lying/being born in the breech position
  • Tight swaddling after birth

How is hip dysplasia diagnosed?

Your consultant will ask about your symptoms and perform a thorough physical examination, They will look at how you walk and do specific tests to see if the hip is causing your pain. The hip is flexed and turned inwards – in patients that have hip dysplasia, they will often experience a pinching sensation.

Investigations such as radiographs (X-Rays), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computerized Tomography (CT) will help to confirm the diagnosis and plan treatment.

How is hip dysplasia treated?

In childhood, hip dysplasia is sometimes treated with surgery to put the hip back into joint. Left untreated, the hip joint will eventually become painful and arthritic.

In adult life, the symptoms from hip dysplasia can be treated in several ways depending on your symptoms. Non-surgical treatments include:

  • Over-the-counter pain medication
  • Weight loss
  • Using a cane or stick
  • Reducing physical activities
  • Injections to the hip joint – they can help to relieve pain and some may help preserve hip cartilage, although this is controversial
  • Physiotherapy

If the symptoms persist then you might benefit from surgery, such as:

  • Hip replacement surgery
  • Arthroscopic surgery

If you’re not sure what treatment is best for you, our team of expert specialists is here to help.

This content has been checked and approved by

Mr Jeremy Latham  ›

Mr Jeremy Latham is a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at King Edward VII’s Hospital who specialises in hip surgery.

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Hip dislocation

Find your specialist in hip dysplasia at King Edward VII's Hospital

If you suspect you have hip dysplasia and you’re seeking an expert opinion, you can find the UK’s leading orthopaedic specialists here at King Edward VII’s Hospital. Our consultants are hand-picked for you, making it easy to access the best possible care.

Mr Sean Curry  ›
Special interests include:
Hip surgery (+ 3) more
Mr Alex Liddle  ›
Special interests include:
Hip replacement (+ 5) more
Mr Robert Marston  ›
Special interests include:
Lower limb trauma (+ 8) more
Mr Simon Newman  ›
Special interests include:
Hip surgery (+ 6) more
Mr Mark Webb  ›
Special interests include:
Anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (+ 10) more
Mr Jeremy Latham  ›
Special interests include:
Hip surgery (+ 3) more

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