Is There a Role for Acetabular Dysplasia Correction in an Asymptomatic Patient?

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Abstract

Background:

Childhood hip dysplasia is best treated in infancy or early childhood with hopes that the acetabulum will be completely normalized by nonoperative treatment methods, which may include Pavlik and brace treatment as well as formal closed reduction and hip spica casting. In many cases, this ideal result cannot be achieved and the child is left with residual dysplasia, which is often not symptomatic. Other patients may present late with hip dysplasia that is not identified in early childhood. Some develop hip pain with no prior known hip problem. Other children have asymptomatic dysplasia that is picked up on an incidental radiograph. The orthopaedic literature is clear regarding the need for corrective hip osteotomies in symptomatic children. Surgery to correct asymptomatic hip dysplasia remains controversial.

Methods:

Children who have no symptoms yet have abnormal radiographs present a puzzling circumstance. In these cases, surgeons need to use quoted radiographic normal values for acetabular coverage of the femoral head as well as long-term natural history studies to decide whether to proceed with a corrective acetabular osteotomy. Long-term follow-up studies confirm that even patients with borderline dysplasia are likely to have significant hip symptoms and arthritis by middle age.

Results:

Many children and adolescents with asymptomatic residual hip dysplasia should have corrective acetabular procedures performed. Surgery is more easily performed with more predictable results when the child is younger than 8 years.

Conclusions:

It is impossible to state with certainty which children with residual radiographic hip dysplasia, but without symptoms, should have a corrective acetabular osteotomy. Review of the literature confirms that many patients have been undertreated in the past, with a high percentage of children with borderline hip dysplasia developing premature arthritis in early to mid-adult life. Current data suggest that surgery should be performed in borderline cases. Skill of the surgeon in performing acetabular osteotomies and/or ease of referral to a treatment center may temper the timing of such decisions.

Level of Evidence:

Level V—expert opinion.

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