Acetabular Dysplasia (Hip Dysplasia)

What is acetabular dysplasia?

Acetabular dysplasia, or hip dysplasia, is a disorder that occurs when the acetabulum (hip socket) is shallow and doesn’t provide sufficient coverage of the femoral head (ball), causing instability of the hip joint. Over time, this instability causes damage to the labrum and cartilage lining of the joint, which can cause pain and development of early hip osteoarthritis.

Acetabular dysplasia can be a result of developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) that was treated in infancy or childhood. Therefore, children treated for hip dysplasia should be closely followed by a physician until their bones are fully grown. Acetabular dysplasia can exist as a mild issue that can take years to decades for symptoms to develop. Patients who have been diagnosed with acetabular dysplasia often have a family history of early hip osteoarthritis or hip dysplasia.

Acetabular dysplasia is occurring on the right hip

The red arrow above shows where acetabular dysplasia is occurring on the right hip. The acetabulum is not providing sufficient coverage of the femoral head, causing instability of the hip joint.

What are the symptoms of acetabular dysplasia?

If your child has acetabular dysplasia, he or she may experience symptoms such as:

  • Pain in the front of the hip or groin
  • Pain in the muscles around the hip
  • Feelings of instability or the hip/leg giving way

How is acetabular dysplasia diagnosed?

Our doctors diagnose acetabular dysplasia through several different tests:

  • Overall range of motion of the hip in flexion, extension, internal and external rotation
  • Observation of gait
  • Muscle strength and reflexes
  • Positive anterior apprehension test: Tests for instability of the hip when it is extended and turned out
  • Positive anterior impingement test: Tests for irritation of the acetabular labrum when the hip is flexed and turned inward
  • Imaging: X-rays and MRIs show different views of the hip, the degree of dysplasia, and any damage to the cartilage and labrum

How is acetabular dysplasia treated at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health?

The preferred treatment for teens and young adults with acetabular dysplasia is a periacetabular osteotomy (PAO), which is a surgical procedure that repositions the acetabulum into a more stable position with the acetabulum covering the femoral head properly. The surgery improves hip function, reduces pain, and stops the damage occurring inside the hip joint.

Why choose Stanford Medicine Children’s Health for acetabular dysplasia treatment?

We are part of the first comprehensive program on the West Coast that treats hip problems in all stages of life. Our doctors specialize in treating young hips and helping prevent arthritis and pain in the future. We also conduct research with the goal of improving care in the future.