Dislocating a hip is an injury that takes extreme force to occur. The ball-and-socket joint formation of the hip makes it very strong and sturdy. The head of the femur bone is the “ball” portion of the joint, and it fits exactly into the “socket” part, which is called the acetabulum. There is also a strong cartilage layer called the labrum which keeps the bones stable. Dislocation occurs when the ball and socket are separated from each other to the point that they have to be forced back into place. This is a serious injury that must be treated as quickly as possible to avoid other issues and complications.
What Causes Hip Dislocation?
The causes of hip dislocation are varied, but they do generally have one thing in common: force. This means that generally, most hip dislocations are accompanied by other serious injuries like broken bones. Common causes of hip dislocations are motor vehicle accidents, falls from high places, or hitting into something while going at a high speed, like skiing. These have enough force to drive the femoral head out of the socket. In elderly patients, hip dislocation can occur more easily, especially after hip replacement surgery. Sometimes a serious fall can dislocate a hip after replacement. These dislocations are not as hard to reposition, but they are also extremely painful. Occasionally children or babies may experience hip dislocation due to congenital abnormalities of the bones.
How is Hip Dislocation Diagnosed?
When hip dislocation occurs as a result of a serious accident with other injuries, most doctors will not want to touch the patient and do a physical exam to diagnose. Most of the time, x-rays are taken to determine if the hip has been dislocated or not. If there is concern about bone fragments in the area or other issues, they may order a CT scan or an MRI to be done as well. Most of the time, dislocation is very obvious on the x-ray and does not need additional scans. If there is no other serious injury to the leg or torso, the doctor may do a physical exam only to diagnose the dislocation. Doctors may order other tests to ensure that there is no serious ripping or tearing outside of the actual dislocation of the bones.
Treatment of Hip Dislocation
Depending on the severity of the injury, there are several ways to treat a dislocated hip. If there are no other broken bones or severely injured tissues, the doctor will manipulate the bones back into place. This is always done under anesthesia, as the procedure is very painful. If there are tissues that have torn and prevent the bone from being realigned, an operation must be done to remove them before anything else can be done. In cases where the surrounding tissues have been severely torn and injured, orthopedic surgery must be done to realign the hip and repair the tissues as well. Most surgery to repair hip dislocation heal over the course of about 6 months.
Effects of Hip Dislocation
Most patients will take 2-3 months to heal from a hip dislocation. Many doctors will recommend resting the hip for several weeks and trying to avoid hip movement. Physical therapy is also a great treatment that can help the patient regain movement and mobility. Many patients are able to walk again without extreme difficulty and can heal well from a hip dislocation over time. Unfortunately, many patients experience long-lasting effects like arthritis, nerve injury, and other issues that stem from the hip dislocation itself. Each hip dislocation comes with its own challenges and effects that may need to be treated as well.