What is Hip Dysplasia?

What is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is a range of conditions in which the top of the thigh bone (femur) does not fit snugly into the cup-shaped pelvis socket. The socket is usually flattened like a saucer, allowing the thigh bone to slide out of place or dislocate completely.

These problems with the bone shape that lead to hip dysplasia most often develop before birth. About one in 100 babies are born with a mild bone deformity that affects the hip. One in 1,000 are born with a dislocation.

Signs & Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia


Hip dysplasia is usually diagnosed in babies. During a newborn’s physical exam and well-baby check-ups, the doctor will move the baby’s legs and look for signs of dysplasia. For people of any age, the doctor may refer to an orthopedic specialist to help diagnose and treat dysplasia.

Signs and symptoms of hip dysplasia vary according to age and include:

In babies

  • One leg may look shorter than the other
  • One hip joint may move differently or be less mobile or flexible than the other

In older children and young adults

  • Groin pain
  • Walking with a limp
  • Clicking or snapping sound as the hip moves

What Causes Hip Dysplasia?


A direct cause of hip dysplasia is not known. In most cases, it develops in the womb. At this stage, the hip joint is made of soft cartilage. As the joint develops, the ball-shaped end of the thigh bone and the socket of the pelvis shape and mold each other.

Dysplasia can happen if the bones are not in contact or are misaligned. This is called developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) or congenital hip dysplasia.

Some factors that contribute to hip dysplasia include:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Breech birth (being born buttocks or legs first)
  • Swaddling a newborn’s legs too tightly
  • Looser than normal ligaments around the hip joint

Risk Factors for Hip Dysplasia

Risk Factors

Many circumstances increase the chances that a baby will be born with developmental dysplasia of the hip. Risk factors for hip dysplasia include:

  • Being the firstborn
  • Hip dysplasia runs in the family
  • Being female (it is about four times more common in girls than boys)
  • Breech birth (being born buttocks first)
  • Less than normal amount of amniotic fluid in the womb at the time of labor
  • Having other musculoskeletal conditions



Mild hip dysplasia may not cause symptoms until late childhood, adolescence, or even adulthood. Untreated hip dysplasia can lead to painful complications, including:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Torn cartilage in the hip socket, known as a labral tear
  • Dislocated hip
  • Groin pain
  • Limited range of motion in the hip joint
  • Feeling of instability in the hip
  • Problems walking



In most cases, the causes and risk factors for hip dysplasia cannot be avoided or changed. However, one way to prevent hip dysplasia in newborns is to avoid swaddling the baby’s legs too tightly. Be sure the baby has room to move and bend the legs.

Get Care

Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Hip Dysplasia Care

For hip dysplasia at any age, schedule a consultation at NewYork-Presbyterian. Our orthopedic specialists are experienced in treating hip dysplasia ranging from mild to severe.

The doctors at NewYork-Presbyterian will help find the right treatments for you or your child. Knowing what treatment options are available is essential to allow children with hip dysplasia to participate fully in physical activity and sports.