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Children's Orthopaedics

The use of ultrasound in determining the initiation of treatment in instability of the hip in neonates

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We have evaluated the effect of the use of ultrasound in determining the initiation of treatment in neonatal instability of the hip. A total of 99 newborn infants (1.5% of all live births) with neonatal hip instability did not have treatment from birth, but were re-examined at eight to 15 days. In the 31 who had persisting clinical instability and ultrasound abnormality, treatment was then started with a Frejka pillow. The hips in the remaining 68 infants showed spontaneous clinical stabilisation and improvement of the ultrasound findings. Treatment was therefore withheld. There was a marked trend towards normal development in mildly unstable hips, whereas no hips with severe instability did so spontaneously.

Further follow-up showed normal development in all the hips which had been treated, and in all except five of the 68 untreated infants. These five infants showed persistent hip dysplasia on both ultrasound and radiological examination at four to five months of age. Treatment with an abduction splint was then started and their hips developed normally.

Ultrasound is very useful in deciding on treatment if the examiners have adequate experience with the method. Its use substantially reduces the rate of treatment. Spontaneous resolution occurred in more than half of the unstable hips. Since five of the untreated infants developed hip dysplasia a strict follow-up is essential to identify and treat these cases.

Correspondence should be sent to Dr K. J. Holen.

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