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Developmental dysplasia of the hips (DDH)

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Approximately 1 in 100 babies will have hip instability immediately after birth. However, for the majority of babies this hip instability will resolve in the first few weeks of life, leaving an incidence of DDH of 1-2 per 1000. Detection of DDH is not always easy and all screening programmes have an incidence of late presentations of DDH. Screening is thought to reduce the incidence of "late" DDH by about 50%.

All babies should be examined in the neonatal unit for hip instability and action taken as below.

Babies with definite DDH i.e. a dislocated hip that is either reducible or irreducible

If a baby has a dislocated hip confirmed on repeat examination by a medical examiner, then this should be discussed with the paediatric orthopaedic registrar and a written referral made to the Orthopaedic Department with the name of the GP. The consultant on call will decide whether they wish to see the baby in the unit or at an early time in their clinic.

Babies with "soft signs" of DDH i.e. clicky hips or asymmetric skin creases

  • Many babies have clicky hips at birth or in the first few months. The great majority have normal hip X-rays at 4 months of age. 
  • Therefore, babies with clicky hips or asymmetric thigh creases should be discharged back to the GP with a request that the GP re-checks the hips at the regular baby checks AND arranges an AP pelvis X-ray at 4-6 months of age with a copy of the report to the Starship Hospital Orthopaedic Department. 
  • These X-rays can be arranged either through the public or private sector. 

Babies with risk factors for DDH but no clinical signs of instability

Risk factors are defined as below:

  • Breech position/ delivery 
  • Family history of DDH in close relative 
  • Babies with other orthopaedic problems (eg. metatarsus adductus or calcaneovalgus foot deformity) or neuromuscular problems

Action required:

  • Discharge child back to GP with a request that the GP re-checks the hips at the regular baby checks AND arranges as AP pelvis X-ray at 4-6 months of age with a copy of the report to the Starship Hospital Orthopaedic Department. 
  • These X-rays can be ordered through Starship radiology or via the private sector.


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Document Control

  • Date last published: 29 January 2009
  • Document type: Clinical Guideline
  • Services responsible: Neonatology, Paediatric Orthopaedics
  • Owner: Newborn Services Clinical Practice Committee
  • Editor: Sarah Bellhouse
  • Review frequency: 2 years