Physical examination for developmental dysplasia of the hip

The health professional examining your child for developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) will look for:

  • Folds of skin on your baby's thighs or buttocks that are not the same on both sides.
  • One leg that is shorter than the other.
  • A limp or waddling gait when your child walks.
  • A difference in the motion of one hip compared to the other.
  • A greater-than-normal inward curve (lordosis) of the lower back (lumbar area) when your child stands, which may indicate DDH in both hip joints.
  • Other physical defects of your child's legs or feet.

The health professional will move your baby's hip joints one at a time and feel for any looseness or displacement of the joint. The health professional is checking for:

  • A dislocated hip, in which the ball at the top of the thighbone (femoral head) is completely out of the hip socket.
  • A dislocatable hip, in which the hip joint becomes dislocated if the hip is moved in a certain way.
  • An unstable hip, in which the head of the femur fits only loosely into the hip socket, not firmly or securely. The femur may move within the socket or in and out of the socket so that it is partly dislocated.

If your child's hip joint is dislocated or can be dislocated easily by moving it in a certain way, often a distinct sensation (a "clunk") can be felt when the femoral head moves into or out of the hip socket.

Last Updated: May 11, 2009

Author: Debby Golonka, MPH

Medical Review: Michael J. Sexton, MD - Pediatrics & Thomas S. Renshaw, MD - Orthopedics

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