A hip dislocation occurs when the ball of the thighbone (femur) is moved out of its place within the socket of the pelvic bone (acetabulum). This ball and socket structure forms the hip joint.
Hip dislocations are relatively rare and severe injuries. They are often associated with fractures of the pelvis. A normal hip joint is stable and strong. A hip dislocation can only occur when a strong force is applied to the hip joint. This can occur with:
- Severe falls, especially from heights
- Motor vehicle accidents, including motorcycles
- Sports injuries
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease, condition or injury.
- Prior hip replacement surgery
- Abnormal hip joint
- Alcohol use
- Poor muscle control or weakness leading to falls
- Severe pain in the hip, especially when attempting to move the leg
- Leg on the affected side appears shorter than the other leg
- Hip joint appears deformed
- Pain or numbness along the sciatic nerve area (back of thighs) if the dislocation presses on this nerve
The doctor will ask about your symptoms, how the injury occurred, and will examine your hip and leg.
Tests may include:
X-ray – a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body, especially bones
CT Scan – a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the body; with a hip dislocation this is very helpful to view associated fractures of the pelvis.
The doctor will manipulate the thigh and leg, in an attempt to put the ball of the femur back into the hip socket. Medications are needed to keep you relaxed during this procedure and may include:
- Pain medication
- Muscle relaxants
- General or spinal anesthesia
If closed reduction is unsuccessful, surgery may be performed to put the ball back into the hip socket. Open reduction is often necessary if the thigh or pelvic bones are broken, along with the dislocation.
There are no guidelines for preventing hip dislocation. Most come from motor vehicle accidents with major sports injuries being a second cause. To reduce your risk of hip dislocation and other serious injuries:
- Wear your seatbelt in the car.
- Obey speed limits and other traffic laws.
- Do not drink and drive.
- Wear all recommended safety equipment when participating in recreational or athletic activities.