The hip is a ball-and-socket joint in which the socket is formed by the acetabulum (part of the pelvic bone) and the ball is the femoral head (the head of the thighbone). A hip dislocation occurs when the ball is forced out of its socket and almost always follows a traumatic injury. It is a serious medical emergency that requires immediate treatment.
A hip dislocation is extremely painful, and you will not be able to move your leg or walk. If there is nerve damage, you may not have any feeling in your leg.
Motor vehicle accidents are the most common cause of traumatic hip dislocations and often occurs when the knee hits the dashboard in a collision. Falling from a significant height can also generate enough force to dislocate a hip.
Although less common, hip dislocations can also result from a collision while playing contact sports, e.g, rugby, football.
A hip dislocation is a medical emergency that requires immediate help and early activation of emergency medical services is important.
Your orthopaedic surgeon can often diagnose a hip dislocation by looking at the position of the leg. Your orthopaedic doctor will also check if there is any nerve or blood vessel injury following the dislocation. An X-ray will usually be done to confirm the dislocation.
If there are no other injuries aside from a hip dislocation, you will receive an anaesthetic or a sedative, and an orthopaedic doctor will perform a reduction procedure to manipulate the ball back into the socket of the hip joint. Reduction should be performed as soon as possible to lessen the damage to the cartilage surfaces of the joint and maintain the viability of the femoral head.
Once the hip has been reduced, further investigations, in the form of a repeat X-ray, CT scan or MRI is sometimes necessary to ensure that the hip has been properly put back in place, and to rule out associated injuries, such as fractures, labral tears, ligament tears or cartilage damage.
Emergency surgery may be necessary if there are fractures associated with the dislocation, if the hip is unstable even after reduction or if the hip cannot be reduced by closed means, as can occur when the hip has been out for a long time. In some cases, the hip continues to give problems, such as pain and instability, even after it has been adequately reduced. Common problems arising after a hip dislocation include labral, ligament or cartilage injuries, and future surgery may be required to correct this. Fortunately, most of these injuries can be treated through a minimally invasive, keyhole (arthroscopic) approach.
Every case is different; hence it is best to consult an orthopaedic specialist for an accurate diagnosis so that you can obtain the best treatment option that is most suitable for you. Reach out to us today if you are suffering following a hip dislocation and let us help you enjoy a better quality of life.
Frequently Asked Question (FAQ)
1) How long does a hip take to heal after a dislocation?
Recovery time after a hip dislocation depends on the severity of the injury, and the age and health of the patient. A few months is the usual timeline for recovery although this may stretch longer if there are any additional fractures or complications. Physical therapy or rehabilitation to restore range of motion and strength to the hip joint may help with this process.
2) What are the long-term consequences of a hip dislocation?
A hip dislocation can potentially have long-term consequences depending on the severity of the injury. This is especially true if there are associated fractures or if nearby nerves, blood vessels and tissues have been damaged.
Some of these long-term consequences include nerve damage, osteonecrosis (also known as avascular necrosis), and osteoarthritis. A hip dislocation can also result in long-term chronic pain, instability, mobility issues, and muscle weakness.
3) Can a hip dislocation recur?
Generally, the dislocation rate can be higher in individuals who have dislocated their hips previously or who have certain conditions that increase the risk of dislocation. These conditions include hip dysplasia or cerebral palsy.
The longer a hip dislocation goes untreated, the more likely it is that the joint will be destabilised. This can also increase the risk of future dislocation injuries.