Hip Dysplasia in Teens and Young Adults

Your hip is a ball-and-socket joint. Hip dysplasia is when the femoral head (ball at the top of your femur) doesn't fit correctly into the acetabulum (hip socket) and creates instability.

Without appropriate management, this condition can cause pain and lead to cartilage damage and early arthritis.

Hip dysplasia can occur both in childhood and during the teenage and young adult years.

At the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Hip Preservation Program at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, we specialize in treating individuals with hip dysplasia.

Contact the AYA Hip Preservation Program

Call 412-692-5530 to make an appointment with one of our hip dysplasia experts.

What Is Adolescent Hip Dysplasia?

In order for our hips to function normally, the hip socket should cover and stabilize the ball part of the femur.

Sometimes part of the joint doesn't form the way it should. With hip dysplasia, the hip socket doesn't fully cover the ball part of the femur, which leads to feelings of instability and pain.

Though doctors often treat infants for hip dysplasia, many people don't have symptoms until adolescence.

What causes hip dysplasia in young people?

Hip dysplasia doesn't have a clear cause. Though it runs in families, we haven't been able to figure out a specific genetic marker. However, hip dysplasia is more common in girls and in first-born children.

Sometimes symptoms associated with hip dysplasia will present themselves during the teenage or young adult years. This is because significant changes in the shape of the ball and socket can happen toward the end of growth.

What problems can hip dysplasia cause later in life?

Over time, hip dysplasia can:

  • Cause the cartilage that cushions your hip joint to start to wear away. This damage is because the joint isn't moving as it should.
  • Damage the labrum – the "O ring" of soft tissue that goes around the socket and helps keep your hip joint stable.
  • Cause osteoarthritis in older adults. In fact, hip dysplasia is the top cause of hip osteoarthritis, and a main reason people need hip replacement surgery.

That's why we focus on identifying and treating hip dysplasia sooner, rather than later.

Why choose the AYA Hip Preservation Program for hip dysplasia care?

Michael McClincy, MD, is one of few surgeons in the Pittsburgh region who performs advanced hip preservation surgeries.

Our team of experts, including radiologists and physical therapists, work together to diagnose and treat young people with hip dysplasia.

We offer access to clinical trials and research that helps us advance how we treat hip disorders. It also means you get early access to new treatments for hip dysplasia.

Adolescent Hip Dysplasia Symptoms and Diagnosis

Hip pain in teenagers and young adults with dysplasia is common, and these symptoms may get worse activities like walking and running.

Playing sports or being active can add to the wear and tear of the hip joint that happens with dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia symptoms in teens and young adults include:

  • Groin pain, especially in the front of your hip.
  • Feelings of popping, locking, and/or snapping in your hip joint.
  • Pain that's worse with standing.
  • The feeling of muscle fatigue or tiredness around your hip.

Diagnosing hip dysplasia in teens and young adults

We always start by taking a medical history and doing a physical exam.

To confirm hip dysplasia, we may order noninvasive imaging such as:

  • X-rays: This helps us get an overall look at the ball-and-socket joint.
  • CT scan: This gives us a 3D view of your hip joint.
  • MRI: This shows the soft tissue of your hip joint and can spot cartilage damage.

At the AYA Hip Preservation Program, we have special training in interpreting these scans. That matters for helping you get timely diagnosis and treatment for your hip condition.

Adolescent Hip Dysplasia Treatment

We want to prevent further damage and help you be able to move pain-free. We'll tailor your treatment based on your physical examination findings and individual goals.

Nonsurgical hip dysplasia treatments for teens

We always start with nonsurgical treatments for hip dysplasia such as:

  • Physical therapy. Increasing strength in the muscles around the hip joint can help stabilize your hip and reduce pain.
  • Anti-inflammatory medicine. Reducing swelling can help some people with hip dysplasia feel better and lead a more active life.

Surgery for hip dysplasia

If your hip dysplasia symptoms don't improve after trying other non-surgical treatments, we may suggest surgery. It may also be a good option if you have damage to your cartilage.

The surgery of choice for adolescents with hip dysplasia is a periacetabular osteotomy (PAO).

A PAO is a way to reposition the hip socket to maximize its coverage of the the ball at the top of your thigh bone.

Along with a PAO, you may also need hip arthroscopy to repair a torn labrum.

We're unique at the AYA Hip Preservation Program in that we can do both a PAO and hip arthroscopy at the same. That means one course of anesthesia and one recovery.

After a PAO, we help to rehabilitate your hip so you can make a full recovery. Our physical therapy team gets involved at the start of your treatment and stays with you each step of the way.

Grace BrueggmanRead a Patient Story

Grace Brueggman underwent a PAO at UPMC Children’s to address her hip dysplasia.

Read her story.

Make an Appointment for Hip Dysplasia at the AYA Hip Preservation Program

To make an appointment for hip dysplasia, call 412-692-5530.