The largest weight-bearing joint in the human body is the hip. Our ability to walk, run, and engage in other physical activities depend heavily on our hips. Hence, injuries like inflammation, fractures, or dislocations can have life-altering effects.
A hip dislocation is among the most painful injuries that can occur. It happens when the hip joint is displaced, causing acute pain and the inability to move the leg. Further, secondary injuries and complications may appear if not treated urgently. Therefore, hip dislocation is a medical emergency warranting treatment by an orthopaedic surgeon.
In this blog, we will talk about hip dislocation and the factors to consider in diagnosis and treatment.
What is hip dislocation?
The ball-and-socket joint in the hips is one of the strongest in the body. It’s where the femur head meets and locks in with the acetabulum. The hip is a very stable joint, and it takes a hard fall, a vehicular crash, contact sports, or trauma of significant force to make the thigh bone slip out of its socket. However, older people are at a higher risk of this condition due to weaker muscles and balance issues.
Depending on the direction of the dislocation, it can be classified into two types — anterior and posterior. For example, in about 90 percent of hip dislocation patients, the femur is pushed out of the socket in a backward direction, causing a posterior hip dislocation. This causes the knee and foot to rotate toward the body’s centre. Meanwhile, an anterior hip dislocation occurs when the femur slips out of the socket in a forward direction. When this happens, the knee and foot are rotated from the body’s centre while the hips are slightly bent.
What are the signs and symptoms of hip dislocations?The signs and symptoms of a hip dislocation vary depending on the severity and location of the injury. These include:
- A visibly deformed joint or bone looks out of place
- Loss of ability to move the joint
- If there is nerve damage, there may be numbness in the foot or ankle area
Treatment and considerations when dealing with hip dislocation
1. It’s a medical emergency.
In dealing with hip dislocations, it’s essential to keep the joint immobile and not try to move the injured person. Keep them warm with blankets. Call an ambulance immediately. Since it’s a medical emergency, you will be taken to the hospital for treatment. The initial step is for the doctor to assess the location and severity of your injury.
2. Diagnostic tests are required for evaluation.
Examining the leg’s position after a hip injury allows the doctor to diagnose a hip dislocation and assess the damage. However, because hip dislocations can happen in conjunction with other injuries, the orthopaedic surgeon will ask for diagnostic testing to determine the condition’s severity. Additionally, this will assist the physician in ruling out any potential hip fractures or other injuries.
The precise location of the dislocated bones can be determined by imaging tests like X-rays, MRI scans, and computed tomography (CT) scans, as well as any other injuries or fractures in the hips or femur.
3. There are non-surgical and surgical treatment options.
Empathy is being able to understand the feelings of others and what they’re going through. Hip surgeons must be empathetic about each patient’s experience to establish rapport with them and provide a good medical judgement.
When the damage is severe, and there are associated fractures, surgery is performed in the operating room. Also, it is done to remove the loose tissues and bone fragments that prevent the bone from slipping back into place. The surgery aims to restore hip stability and cartilage surfaces to their regular positions. This is a very invasive surgery that may require more time to recover.
4. It takes months to recover.The good news is that most dislocations heal entirely. They start to feel better as soon as the doctor puts the joint back into place. You will need to use a hip brace or a walking aid for several weeks or months while the hip heals. Generally, it can take about two to three months to recover from a hip dislocation. However, it may take longer for more severe cases to require surgery.
5. Special hip precautions prevent further damage.
The key to complete healing is avoiding activities that pressure the hips. You will also need protective gear like a brace or support during physical activity to reduce the risk of another dislocation. In addition, special hip precautions are essential to keep the hip centred in its socket during the healing period.
Keep your knees and toes pointing forward when you walk, sit, or stand. Keep your legs as straight as possible when leaning forward or moving around in bed, and limit your waist bending to no more than 90 degrees. Finally, never sit with your legs crossed. The doctor will recommend exercises to strengthen your hip, muscles, and legs.
Prevention is better than cure
Hip dislocation is a complex injury as it can come back now and then, significantly, if the tendons, cartilage, and ligaments have been affected. Hence, the most effective way to take care of your hip joint is to prevent activities that can cause injury and an unstable hip. These include contact sports, twisting of the hips, and strenuous activities.
Hopefully, this blog has shed some light on what to consider when dealing with hip dislocations. To learn about your hip ailments and how to manage them, book a consultation with A/Professor Andrew Dutton by calling us at (+65) 6836 8000.