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Home > Hip Dislocation – Part I

Hip Dislocation – Part I

John D. Burrow, D.O.

John D. Burrow, DO

In my busy practice as an orthopaedic surgeon, I regularly treat patients who have injuries or conditions related to the health of their hip which may require long term care or even surgery.  I have treated many patients who have had dislocations of the hip joint.  In this article, I will discuss the anatomy of the hip joint, who is at risk for a hip joint dislocation, the causes of a hip dislocation and the symptoms of hip dislocation.  I will also cover treatment for hip dislocation.

First, let’s have a short anatomy lesson about the hip joint. The hip is a ball-and-socket joint which comprises the femoral head and the acetabulum of the pelvis, which is stabilized by ligaments, muscles, and surrounding soft tissues, giving it its structural strength, and allowing multi-directional movement. The hip joint is a vital anatomic structure which allows us to stand upright, bear the weight of our bodies and to move in all the ways we like to move. 

What is a Hip Dislocation?

Hip dislocation occurs when the ball-and-socket joint of the hip is disrupted, causing the femoral head (the ball) to lose contact with the acetabulum (the socket). It demands immediate attention, due to the severe (but not always) pain and risk of troublesome complications, including vascular issues and nerve damage.

What Causes a Hip Dislocation & Who Is at Risk?

Typically, in healthy individuals who have not had hip replacement surgery, hip dislocation is a serious orthopedic issue that results from high-impact or velocity trauma, such as a car accident, fall, or sports injury.   

Persons who have had hip replacement surgery are at higher risk of post-surgical dislocation if they have had a posterior or lateral approach surgery due to weakened or cut muscles and may have movement restrictions for several months during their recovery period to prevent dislocation.

Patients who have had a direct anterior approach hip replacement surgery will not have nearly the risk of dislocation during their post-surgical recovery period (as no muscles are cut during surgery); however, it is possible, if they have had prior lumbar surgery or significant lumbar pathology.  These people should avoid unnecessary and excessive hip and leg movements.

There are also some underlying congenital conditions, such as cerebral palsy, or severe hip dysplasia that can cause weakened or lax hip muscles and ligaments. 

In the next article of the series, I will discuss the symptoms of hip dislocation and how it is diagnosed.

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