Family Health

Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia, also called developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) or clicky hips, is a congenital (present at birth) disorder in which one hip is dislocated or easily dislocated. The disorder is about five times more common in infant girls than in infant boys, and the left hip is three times more likely to be affected than the right hip. Sometimes, both hips are affected.

What causes clicky hips?

Most cases of clicky hips are related to other congenital disorders such as cerebral palsy and spina bifida. Other cases may run in the family. Still others are the result of a breech delivery, multiple births, and first time delivery.

Signs and symptoms

Clicky hips are rather easy to recognize with a clunking sound when the hip is rotated being the most obvious sign. Other signs include:

  • Reduced joint mobility
  • Unusually wide perineum (the stretch of skin between the anus and the genitals)
  • The skin creases of the buttocks don’t match
  • One knee joint looks higher than the other

Newborn diagnosis

All newborns are checked for clicky hips. The doctor or a nurse places the baby on his back and rotates the hips to check for the disorder. In a baby with clicky hips, the socket that holds the ball of the hip (the joint) is too shallow, making it easy for the hip to slip out.


If the doctor believes that the mobility of your newborn’s hips is not quite right, he may use x-rays, CT scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to determine if your child has clicky hips or some other disorder.

Successful treatment

Most babies born with clicky hips are successfully treated with a device called a Pavlik harness which holds the hip(s) in place as the child’s hips mature and grow. Most babies wear the harness for only three months.

Older children are a bit more difficult to treat and may require surgery to correct the condition. After surgery, a hip cast may be necessary to keep the hip(s) in place.

Although most kids who have had treatment for clicky hips recover fully, some will develop arthritis in their hips later in life.

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Written by Rebecca Stigall for Kidspot, New Zealand's parenting resource for family health. Sources include Better Health Channel, NSW Health, and Health Insite.

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