Hip dysplasia is fairly common in infants and most often can be corrected without surgery. But in some cases, orthopedic surgeons need to maneuver the ball of the hip into the socket, and put the child in a body cast to keep the joint aligned.
Karissa Douglas, a 9-year-old from Massillon, went through the procedure at Akron Children’s Hospital when she was 3. She required a second, “revision” surgery, and wore a cast from her armpit to her ankles for 3 months. The experience was no fun for a young child, but the bubbly third grader had a good attitude and maintains a sense of humor about it.
“I felt like I was just a head,” Karissa quipped, seated next to her mother, Amber, in a video chat.
About 1 in 100 infants are treated for hip dysplasia, according to the International Hip Dysplasia Institute. The hip socket is shallower at birth, and often mild dysplasia will correct itself as the socket develops during the first year of life. Akron Children’s orthopedic surgeon Dr. Patrick Riley, Sr. said pediatricians screen infants for the disorder, and it’s best to catch it when they are young.
“Sometimes it’s missed. It’s not very obvious,” he said. “Often the ball of the hip joint will find its way back in to the socket. The ones that don’t, you pray someone spots it early. If it’s found early, it’s a lot easier to treat.”
Amber said before Karissa was diagnosed, she was pedaling a bike, swimming, running and jumping like any 3-year-old. But she had a slight waddle and would get leg pain at night.
Today Karissa likes to dance and she experiences no problems.
“So far, the hip is good, so there are no plans for any more surgeries,” Amber said.
Hip dysplasia tends to run in families. Karissa’s younger sister, Isabella, was diagnosed at birth. She wore a brace for several months but did not require surgery.
Dysplasia most often affects girls and involves the left hip twice as often as the right, which has to do with the way a baby is positioned in the womb, Dr. Riley said.
“The hip can be in a crazy position for a long time in the womb. After delivery most hips tighten up in the socket. But some, if pushed hard enough due to ‘tight packaging’ in the womb, don’t go back in the socket,” he said.
Tightly swaddling babies with their hips and knees straightened increases risk of hip dislocation or dysplasia. The American Academy of Pediatric recommends safe swaddling practices.