More awareness of hip dysplasia needed, local mothers say

Little Iris Powell has to wear a hip brace virtually around the clock.

The 13-month-old was diagnosed with developmental dysplasia of the hip at eight months old, a condition in which the ball and socket joint of the hip does not fit together in the normal position.

For Iris, this has meant undergoing surgery to allow the ball at the top of the femur to be manoeuvred back into the hip socket, followed by several weeks in a cast that stretched from underneath her armpits to her toes.

She now has to wear the brace for months to correct the misalignment of her hip.

Her mother Emma said her first indication something was wrong was when she noticed Iris was a little stiff when trying to change her.

Mrs Powell said prior to Iris’ diagnosis she had known nothing about the condition.

It was her experience with Iris that made Mrs Powell, alongside fellow local mothers Grace Holmfield and Alisha Pickering, want to raise awareness of the condition during Healthy Hips Week, which wraps up Saturday, April 16.

Mrs Holmfield’s daughter Mila also had the condition, something that was first picked up when Mrs Holmfield noticed one leg was longer than the other.

She too had to undergo surgery and wear a cast and a brace.

Mrs Holmfield said there was a lack of information for or awareness among new parents, but the earlier it was picked up, the quicker and less invasive the treatment.

Mrs Pickering said that while her daughter Sylvie’s hip dysplasia was treated a little earlier, her physical development was slightly behind that of most other kids her age.

She said it was difficult, especially as a first-time parent, to see your child progress at a different rate to other kids.

All three mothers have had to take their children to Melbourne for treatment.

They said that in addition to the stress and cost associated with having a child undergo medical treatment, there were other impacts, including having to purchase clothing, prams and car seats that could accommodate the wide-legged position the casts and braces forced.

Children sometimes also require further surgeries or treatment when they get older.

Mrs Holmfield said only children who were at high risk of the condition were currently offered an ultrasound, which is done at six weeks old, but she would like to see that extended to all babies so that those with hip dysplasia were diagnosed as early as possible.

All three women expressed a wish to see more parents and health care practitioners armed with knowledge about the condition.

“Parents need to know what the signs and symptoms are, and be proactive,” Mrs Holmfield said.

One in 20 full-term newborns have some hip instability, but developmental dysplasia of the hip can be difficult to detect.

Some of the signs and symptoms include a clicking or clunking sound when moving the hip, uneven thigh or buttock creases, different leg lengths, difficulty in spreading legs apart, bearing weight on one side when sitting, avoiding weight bearing, limping, or walking on the toes on one side.

Girls are more susceptible to the condition because they have looser ligaments, as are first born children because of less room in the womb.

A family history of hip dysplasia also increases the chance of having the condition.

To avoid the risk of a young baby developing the condition, parents should avoid tight swaddling that restricts leg movement, as well as baby seats and slings that bring the legs together at the knee.

Hip dysplasia is the most common cause of hip arthritis in adults, but infant screening only detects 10 per cent of dysplasia that causes arthritis in adults.