Hip dislocation

The hip is described as a ‘ball and socket’ joint and is formed by the upper part of your thigh bone (the femur) sitting inside the socket-like part of your pelvis known as the acetabulum.

This structure gives your hip joint a good amount of mobility but unfortunately means that it is also susceptible to injury. Hip dislocation occurs when the top of the femur is forced out of the socket in your pelvis, and this can cause severe pain and lack of mobility.

A hip dislocation is not very common, primarily because the structure of the hip joint means that the head (top) of the femur sits deeply within the socket and is very hard to dislodge. By way of comparison, dislocation of the shoulder joint is much more common as the humeral head sits less deeply in the joint.

A hip dislocation is usually the result of significant trauma or injury, such as:

  • Road traffic accident (RTA)
  • Fall from a height (for example, a fall off a ladder)
  • Impact during a sports game (for example, a rugby tackle)

A dislocation can also occasionally occur following hip replacement surgery, although this is not very common.

Symptoms that you may experience following a hip dislocation can be divided into two categories, primary and secondary.

Primary symptoms

  • Pain: The most common symptom of hip dislocation is a severe pain in the hip.
  • Unable to move: You will find it extremely difficult to move without exacerbating the pain and will almost certainly be unable to weight bear.
  • Shortened and rotated leg: A ‘classic’ sign of hip dislocation is for the leg in the affected side to be shortened and rotated outwards. This occurs when the thigh bone ‘pops’ out of the socket; when the strong leg muscles then contract, the thigh bone is pulled higher up the body than normal.

Secondary symptoms

The force required to cause hip dislocation means that there is often also significant damage to the areas surrounding the hip. These can include:

  • Fracture(s) in the pelvis
  • Tears/damage to the cartilage and ligaments of the hip
  • Injury to the blood vessels that nourish the bone: if the blood supply to the bones in the hip is cut off, death of bone tissue (avascular necrosis) can occur.

A hip dislocation is classified as a medical emergency, meaning your immediate treatment will probably be through an Accident and Emergency department.

There are two aspects to treatment for hip dislocation; the initial surgery needed to reposition the thigh bone into the pelvis and then follow-up treatment and rehabilitation.

  • Surgery: The main objective for treatment is to reposition the femoral head into the acetabulum correctly. This will be usually be done under general anaesthesia due to the force required to move the bones back into their correct position. Leading up to the operation (known as a joint reduction), you will be given pain medication to lower the pain as much as possible.
  • Treatment following surgery: once your hip dislocation has been restored by surgery, the work begins to help you recover as quickly, fully and safely as possible, and this is an area that Circle hospitals excel in. It will take time to build up your leg muscles again and to be able to mobilise safely. At Circle, we have a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals who will help you as you recover. Our physiotherapists have access to state-of-the-art technologies and equipment as well as mobility aids such as crutches and walking frames. They will work with you to help you throughout your recovery and to ensure you are able to move safely and confidently once again as soon as is medically possible.  

If you’ve experienced a hip dislocation and are struggling with recovery, mobility or ongoing pain in the hip, why not come and meet with one of our hip consultants to discuss your challenges? The orthopaedic surgeons working in our Circle hospitals are leaders in the field and will use their vast experience to advise you on the best course of action and/or therapy to have you moving confidently again, without pain.

If you are experiencing ongoing pain and lack of mobility in your hip following a hip dislocation, the last thing you want is to have to wait any longer for it to be treated. At Circle, we have no waiting lists, meaning that you can be seen by one of our consultants promptly and receive any treatment or therapy you need without undue delay.

Contact our friendly team today to arrange a consultant appointment at your nearest Circle hospital, at a time convenient to you.

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Circle Health Group, 1st Floor, 30 Cannon Street, London, EC4M 6XH