A dislocation of the hip occurs when the head of the femur (the ball of the hip joint) is separated from the acetabulum (the socket of the hip joint), generally after significant trauma.
TYPES OF HIP DISLOCATION
Posterior Hip Dislocation
The dislocated femur can protrude in one of several directions. A posterior hip dislocation causes the thigh to protrude backward, immobilizing the leg in the process.
Anterior Hip Dislocation
An anterior hip dislocation causes the thigh to protrude frontward, allowing patients to rotate the leg away from the body. This type of dislocation is less common than the posterior hip dislocation.
DISLOCATED HIP SYMPTOMS & SIGNS
What does a dislocated hip feel like?
A hip dislocation will immediately result in severe pain and a complete loss of the leg’s range of motion. The patient won’t be able to walk or bear weight on the affected leg, and they may lose feeling in their leg or foot if the dislocation affects the nerves. Since a dislocated bone can damage surrounding structures, a hip dislocation may also be accompanied by torn muscles, ligaments, or tendons, bone fractures, and damage to the cartilage in the hip.
HIP DISLOCATION TREATMENT & RECOVERY
A dislocated hip is a medical emergency, requiring prompt treatment from a qualified orthopedic specialist. Fortunately, most dislocations respond quite well to conservative treatments, with the majority of patients enjoying a complete recovery after several months of rest and physical therapy.
As soon as the condition is diagnosed, your doctor will perform a hip dislocation reduction, which is a procedure intended to reset the bone. A reduction can generally be conducted immediately with a sedative or local anesthetic, but general anesthesia may be needed under some circumstances.
Patients with more severe dislocations may need surgery before the damaged joint can be replaced. If fragments of bone or cartilage have been dislodged, for example, the loose bodies need to be removed before the bone can be reset — if left untouched, they could destabilize the joint.
As soon as the joint is reset, your doctor will outline a comprehensive treatment plan designed to ensure that your hip recovers completely. For the first several weeks after the procedure, you’ll need to walk with crutches to minimize stress on the joint, and your movement in general will be limited for at least a month. You’ll also experience some pain in the days after the procedure, but your doctor will prescribe pain medication to help you manage it.
After several weeks of rest, you’ll begin a physical therapy program designed to rebuild the muscles surrounding the joint and restore its range of motion, protecting it from future dislocations. Your program will also eliminate stiffness and prevent scarring, ensuring that you completely regain function in the joint. Most patients can expect a complete recovery after two to three months, though patients with damage to the surrounding bones or soft tissues will likely need more time to heal.
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