Living with hip dysplasia

It was her funny waddling that prompted my husband and I to take our 18-month-old daughter to the doctor.

A few months later we were leaving hospital with our typically active toddler immobilised after the first of what would be three surgeries to help correct severe dysplasia in her left hip.

What is hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia, sometimes also known “clicky hips”, is caused when the ball at the top of the thighbone and the socket in the pelvis that it fits into, are misaligned or don’t fit together properly. 

Roughly one out of 20 newborns will have some type of hip instability (one in 10 if there is a family history of hip dysplasia) and up to four  out of every 1000 infants  are likely to require treatment . 

Risk factors for hip dysplasia

As in our case, first-born children and girls are  most susceptible to being born with hip dysplasia, as well as babies with a family history of hip dysplasia, born in a breech position or weighing over 4kg at birth – but the condition can potentially affect any child regardless of these risk factors.

Treatment for hip dysplasia 

Commonly, especially with babies up to six months old, a brace or harness can be fitted to help keep the femur and pelvis in the correct position to allow the hip’s ball and socket to develop normally.

For new parents, this can mean having to wrangle nappy changes and naptimes with the added challenge of a brace that holds little legs in the frog leg position which is believed to be a good position to help hips grow properly. 

In more serious cases, including those where diagnosis is after six months, surgery may be required to create the ball and socket, with a hip spica cast fitted to hold the hip in position.

The hip spica is a plaster cast that encases the body from the nipple to ankle, with the legs set in a wide frog-leg position. 

An opening is left in the cast at the groin to allow your child to go to the toilet and given that many children fitted with spicas are too young to have been toilet trained, careful nappy placement is really important to help prevent any leakages.
Ada's op Daylesford

Tips to help you care for a child with a spica plaster

If your child is in a spica plaster, here are some tips to help make them a little more comfy:  
 
To help a child in a spica cast sit more comfortably, beanbags can help. We paired the beanbag with a homemade “spica table”, which is a table with a semi circle cut out of it, providing a comfortable place to sit and eat or do craft activities. These tables can often be purchased from private companies, loaned from hospitals or made using old coffee or kids’ tables.
 
Most high chairs do not accommodate spica casts due to the width at which a child’s legs are set – but we found a cheap alternative was a portable fabric chair harness that could be tied to any size or style of chair.
 
Many other items, such as the seatbelt extenders required to fit children with spica casts into car seats can be hired, while there are also online stores that sell clothes, sleeping bags and other items specifically designed for children in braces and spica casts.
 
For more information, try www.healthyhipsaustralia.org.au or the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne website .
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