A hip dislocation occurs when the ball of the hip joint is pushed out of the socket. It is commonly caused by a car crash, high-impact fall, workplace injury, or sports injury. A dislocated hip must be treated quickly to avoid serious long-term problems as a result of the injury. If you think you may have a dislocated hip, it’s important to seek emergency attention. We also welcome you to reach out to AICA to ensure that you receive any additional care you may need and an effective treatment plan for your hip dislocation.
Causes of a Dislocated Hip
It takes a significant force to push the hip joint out of place. A dislocated hip is typically caused by a traumatic injury, such as a car crash. Automobile accidents are the most common cause of traumatic hip dislocations, often occurring when the knee hits the dashboard during the collision. The force drives the thigh backward, driving the ball head of the femur out of the hip socket.
In addition to car crashes, hip dislocation can also be caused by an industrial workplace injury, sports injury, or significant fall. Hip dislocations are often associated with secondary injuries such as fractures in the pelvis, legs, or back as well as nerve and blood vessel damage.
People with hip dysplasia, an abnormality in which the femur does not fit together with the pelvis as it should, are more prone to hip dislocation since it takes much less force to dislocate their hip joint. Those who have had a hip replacement are also at a higher risk of hip dislocation from ordinary activities such as attempting to stand after sitting on a low-to-the-ground chair, bending down at the waist, sleeping on the side, and crossing the legs in a sitting or standing position. A hip replacement is most likely to dislocate within one month after the hip replacement surgery.
Preventing a Dislocated Hip
Since automobile accidents are the most common cause of hip dislocation, it’s important to take safety precautions when riding in a car. You should always wear your seatbelt. When playing contact sports, you should always wear appropriate protective gear. It’s important to also take precautions when using a ladder or other equipment in the workplace.
You are more prone to dislocating your hip if you have previously dislocated it in the past. By strengthening your hip muscles through physical therapy and exercise, you can help to reinforce your hip joint. It is also important for children with hip dysplasia to receive appropriate treatment while their skeletons are still growing to prevent dislocation in the future. Other factors predisposing you to hip dislocation include a history of repeat hip surgery, age 70 years or older, and neuromuscular disease.
Symptoms of a Dislocated Hip
Typically with a dislocated hip, you will first notice that your leg is locked in a fixed position, rotated inward or outward. The majority of the time, your hip joint is forced backward out of the socket, leaving your knee and foot pointing inward. This type of dislocation is called a posterior dislocation. If your hip is pushed forward out of the socket, the knee and foot will point outward, resulting in an anterior dislocation. Since the anterior ligaments are stronger, trauma to the hip results in a posterior dislocation in 90% of cases.
The rotated leg may appear either shorter or longer than your other leg. You may also be able to see discoloration or swelling at the hip or that the hip isn’t aligned. Additional symptoms of hip dislocation include acute pain, muscle spasms, inability to move your leg, inability to bear weight on your leg, and loss of feeling in your hip or foot.
Complications of a Dislocated Hip
Hip dislocation can potentially damage the nearby nerves. This damage can lead to long-term consequences such as sciatica. The dislocated hip can impact the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back through the hip and down the leg, into the foot and toes. Damage to the sciatic nerve can impair your ability to flex your feet.
In addition to nerve damage, a dislocated hip can also damage blood vessels and tissue. If the femoral artery is damaged when the hip is dislocated, it can impact the delivery of blood to your bone. If the blood is cut off, your bone tissue starts to die. Tiny fractures can also occur, which destroy the integrity of your bone, resulting in osteonecrosis.
Arthritis is another potential consequence of a dislocated hip. The dislocated hip can damage the cartilage in the socket that cushions your ball joint, as well as the cartilage ring that surrounds your joint. This can lead to arthritis as well as increase the potential of needing a hip replacement in the future.
Diagnosis of a Dislocated Hip
Your healthcare provider will likely be able to diagnose your dislocated hip by looking at it, but will still perform an evaluation to check for any related injuries. They may use imaging tests such as CT scans or X-rays to screen for any fractures prior to correcting the dislocated hip. MRI may be used to identify soft tissue injuries and cartilaginous bodies that continue to cause issues associated with a hip dislocation. Since secondary injuries are common with hip dislocation, additional tests may be required, especially if there is significant blood loss due to femoral vessel injury.
Treatment of a Dislocated Hip
Your healthcare provider will be able to walk you through the options and determine which is best for treating your hip dislocation. A dislocated hip must be treated urgently to reduce the risk of long-term damage. Correction of hip dislocation is most successful when completed within a few hours of the injury. The dislocation is painful, and correction requires medication and assistance. It is only safe to perform the hip correction after the provider has determined if there are any secondary injuries that require separate intervention. Hip dislocations are often associated with additional injuries such as nerve or blood vessel damage. There are also fractures in 50% of hip dislocation cases.
If there are not any secondary injuries, your healthcare provider will be able to perform the hip reduction externally. This is done by physically moving the hip joint back into place, which requires a significant force. Typically you will receive some combination of sedatives and anesthetic to reduce muscle spasms and pain during the procedure.
If there are secondary injuries, surgery may be necessary to perform the hip reduction. During the operation, nerves and blood vessels can also be treated. Surgery is also typically done when hip dislocation occurs in an infant, especially when the dislocation is a result of hip dysplasia. During the procedure, the joint can be stabilized to prevent additional dislocation in the future. Surgery is also often recommended when the displaced hip is artificial. The artificial hip implant may need to be replaced or reinforced.
Recovery of a Dislocated Hip
After a hip reduction, your hip will typically take two to three months to fully heal. It may be even longer if there are secondary fractures or other injuries. Typically hip movement is limited for the first few weeks following the procedure, and physical therapy is often recommended after that. Some patients require crutches to walk for the first few weeks, depending on the severity of the hip dislocation.
During the duration of your recovery, there are precautions you can take to keep your hip centered in the socket such as not sitting with your legs crossed, not bending the waist more than 90 degrees when leaning or moving in bed, and keeping your knees and toes pointed forward when you sit in a chair, walk, or stand.
Your healthcare provider may also recommend that you wear a hip brace during the healing process. It’s important that you do not remove the brace unless your specialist says that it’s okay to do so. It’s also important that you rest your hip as much as you can during your recovery. You may need to change your activities to avoid movements that irritate the hip.
It’s also important that you take any medications prescribed by your provider exactly as prescribed as well as to do any exercises recommended by your doctor as directed. Your healthcare provider will work with you to determine the best path of recovery for your hip dislocation.
Get Treated Today
Visit AICA Orthopedics to learn more about how our team of doctors can help you receive a proper diagnosis and provide you with an effective treatment plan for your hip dislocation. Our specialists will talk you through all of your options for your injury, and our orthopedic doctors will help you determine what treatment will work best for you. We also have physical therapists who work alongside our orthopedic surgeons and other specialists to ensure that you receive quality, comprehensive care as you recover. Call or visit us online to get started at an AICA Orthopedics location near you.