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Understanding Dysplastic Hips in Adults

Dysplastic Hips

Dysplastic hips, or hip dysplasia, is a condition where the hip socket does not fully cover the ball of the upper thighbone. This misalignment can lead to increased wear and tear of the joint, resulting in pain and limited mobility. While commonly diagnosed in infants and children, hip dysplasia can persist into adulthood or develop due to changes in the hip joint structure over time. This blog post will delve into the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for dysplastic hips in adults.

Causes of Dysplastic Hips in Adults

Hip dysplasia often originates in infancy. If the condition is not diagnosed and treated early, it can persist into adulthood. However, in some cases, hip dysplasia can develop in adults who had normal hip development in childhood. Several factors can contribute to the development of dysplastic hips in adults:

  1. Genetics: A family history of hip dysplasia can increase the risk of developing the condition.
  2. Gender: Women are more likely to develop hip dysplasia than men, possibly due to the effects of hormones on joint laxity.
  3. Physical Activity: High-impact sports or activities that place stress on the hips can contribute to the development of hip dysplasia.
  4. Hip Injuries: Trauma to the hip joint can lead to structural changes that result in dysplasia.
  5. Connective Tissue Disorders: Conditions that affect the connective tissues, such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, can predispose individuals to hip dysplasia.

Symptoms of Dysplastic Hips in Adults

The symptoms of hip dysplasia in adults can vary widely. Some individuals may experience mild discomfort, while others may have significant pain and mobility issues. Common symptoms include:

  1. Hip Pain: Pain is often located in the groin area but can also be felt in the outer thigh or buttocks.
  2. Clicking or Popping Sensations: Some individuals may experience a clicking or popping sound in the hip joint.
  3. Limited Range of Motion: Difficulty in moving the hip joint through its full range of motion can be a sign of dysplasia.
  4. Limping: An abnormal gait or limping can result from the pain and instability associated with hip dysplasia.
  5. Joint Stiffness: Stiffness in the hip joint, especially after periods of inactivity, is a common symptom.

Diagnosis of Dysplastic Hips in Adults

Diagnosing hip dysplasia in adults typically involves a combination of physical examinations and imaging studies. The diagnostic process may include:

  1. Physical Examination: A healthcare provider will assess the hip joint for signs of pain, instability, and limited range of motion. They may also evaluate the patient’s gait and posture.
  2. X-rays: X-rays can provide detailed images of the hip joint, allowing the doctor to assess the alignment and structure of the bones.
  3. MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can offer a more detailed view of the soft tissues, including the cartilage and labrum, and can help identify any associated damage.
  4. CT Scan: A computed tomography (CT) scan can provide cross-sectional images of the hip joint, offering a comprehensive view of its structure.

Treatment Options for Dysplastic Hips in Adults

The treatment for hip dysplasia in adults depends on the severity of the condition and the extent of joint damage. Treatment options range from conservative measures to surgical interventions:

Non-Surgical Treatments

  1. Physical Therapy: Physical therapy can help strengthen the muscles around the hip joint, improve flexibility, and reduce pain.
  2. Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help manage pain and inflammation.
  3. Lifestyle Modifications: Avoiding high-impact activities that stress the hip joint can prevent further damage. Weight management is also crucial to reduce the load on the hips.
  4. Assistive Devices: Using a cane or walker can help alleviate stress on the hip joint and improve mobility.

Surgical Treatments

  1. Periacetabular Osteotomy (PAO): PAO is a surgical procedure that involves cutting and repositioning the hip socket to better cover the ball of the femur. This surgery is often recommended for younger adults with hip dysplasia.
  2. Hip Arthroscopy: This minimally invasive procedure can address labral tears, remove loose bodies, and smooth out damaged cartilage in the hip joint.
  3. Total Hip Replacement (THR): In severe cases where there is significant joint damage and conservative treatments have failed, total hip replacement may be necessary. This procedure involves replacing the damaged hip joint with an artificial one.

Living with Dysplastic Hips

Living with dysplastic hips can be challenging, but several strategies can help manage the condition and maintain a good quality of life:

  1. Regular Exercise: Low-impact exercises such as swimming, cycling, and yoga can help maintain joint mobility and strengthen the muscles around the hip.
  2. Pain Management: In addition to medications, techniques such as heat or cold therapy, acupuncture, and massage can help manage pain.
  3. Healthy Diet: A balanced diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce joint inflammation and support overall health.
  4. Support Networks: Joining support groups or connecting with others who have hip dysplasia can provide emotional support and practical advice.

Advances in Treatment and Research

Advancements in medical research are continuously improving the understanding and treatment of hip dysplasia. Some of the latest developments include:

  1. Stem Cell Therapy: Research into stem cell therapy aims to regenerate damaged cartilage and improve joint function.
  2. Improved Surgical Techniques: Advances in surgical techniques and technologies are making procedures like PAO and hip replacement more effective and less invasive.
  3. Genetic Research: Understanding the genetic factors involved in hip dysplasia could lead to better prevention and treatment strategies.


Dysplastic hips in adults can significantly impact quality of life, but with early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, individuals can manage the condition effectively. Understanding the causes, recognizing the symptoms, and exploring the available treatment options are crucial steps in addressing hip dysplasia. Ongoing research and advancements in medical science continue to offer hope for improved outcomes for those living with this condition. If you suspect you have hip dysplasia or are experiencing hip pain, consult a healthcare professional for a comprehensive evaluation and personalized treatment plan.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Dysplastic Hips in Adults

What non-surgical treatments are available for hip dysplasia in adults?

Non-surgical treatments include physical therapy, pain medications (like NSAIDs), lifestyle modifications (such as avoiding high-impact activities and managing weight), and using assistive devices like canes or walkers.

How is hip dysplasia diagnosed in adults?

Diagnosis typically involves a physical examination and imaging studies such as X-rays, MRI, and CT scans to assess the alignment and structure of the hip joint.

What are the common symptoms of hip dysplasia in adults?

Symptoms include hip pain (often in the groin area), clicking or popping sensations, limited range of motion, limping, and joint stiffness, especially after periods of inactivity.

What causes hip dysplasia in adults?

Causes include genetic factors, gender (women are more prone), physical activity, hip injuries, and connective tissue disorders. It may also result from untreated hip dysplasia in childhood.

What is hip dysplasia in adults?

Hip dysplasia is a condition where the hip socket does not fully cover the ball of the upper thighbone, leading to joint instability. While commonly diagnosed in infants, it can persist into adulthood or develop due to changes in the hip joint over time.

Medical Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.

Dr. Benoit is an assistant professor of surgery at the Université de Montréal and practices at the CIUSSS Nord-de-l’île de Montréal. He completed his medical degree at Université Laval in Quebec City in 2001 and did his orthopedic residency at the Université de Montreal, where he was on the Dean’s honour list. Following his residency, he completed two additional years of fellowship training; the first year in Geneva, Switzerland and the second year in Ottawa, Canada.

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