When developmental hip dysplasia goes untreated in a young patient, the end result can be adolescent hip dysplasia. Being one of the body’s largest joints, our hips fit together like a “ball-and-socket.” What makes the upper end of the femur (thighbone) glide effortlessly in its partnered socket is the articular cartilage that covers the bone surfaces. Articular cartilage is smooth and slippery, and offers our bones protection and sufficient cushioning to help us do the things we love without pain.
Here is a detailed diagram to better understand our hip’s anatomy.
You can see that the acetabulum is surrounded by strong fibrocartilage called the labrum. This ringed gasket forms around the socket, and is what creates a tight seal, helping to hold the femoral head in place. Hip dysplasia occurs when the acetabulum is shallow and the “ball,” or femoral head, does not fit tightly into the socket. This abnormality causes an incorrect fit between the ball and socket, causing excess force to be placed on the labrum. When the labrum and hip cartilage receive force that they are not made for, the smooth slippery cartilage can, over time become frayed and wear away, and the labrum becomes torn or damaged. These degenerative changes can progress to early osteoarthritis. Not every patient with hip dysplasia is the same. Some cases can be more severe than others. In mild cases, the head of the femur may simply be loose in the socket. In more severe cases, there may be complete instability in the joint and/or the femoral head may be completely dislocated out of the socket. Treatment for adolescent hip dysplasia can vary from nonsurgical options to surgical options. The focus of treatment is to relieve pain while preserving the patient’s natural hip joint for as long as possible. In many cases, this is achieved through surgery to restore the normal anatomy of the joint and delay or prevent the onset of painful osteoarthritis.