Hip Dislocation

ExitCare ImageHip dislocation is the displacement of the "ball" at the head of your thigh bone (femur) from its socket in the hip bone (pelvis). The ball-and-socket structure of the hip joint gives it a lot of stability, while allowing it to move freely. Therefore, a lot of force is required to displace the femur from its socket. A hip dislocation is an emergency. If you believe you have dislocated your hip and cannot move your leg, call for help immediately. Do not try to move.

CAUSES

The most common cause of hip dislocation is motor vehicle accidents. However, force from falls from a height (a ladder or building), injuries from contact sports, or injuries from industrial accidents can be enough to dislocate your hip.

SYMPTOMS

A hip dislocation is very painful. If you have a dislocated hip, you will not be able to move your hip. If you have nerve damage, you may not have feeling in your lower leg, foot, or ankle.

DIAGNOSIS

Usually, your caregiver can diagnose a hip dislocation by looking at the position of your leg. Generally, X-ray exams are done to check for fractures in your femur or pelvis. The leg of the dislocated hip will appear shorter than the other leg, and your foot will be turned inward.

TREATMENT

Your caregiver can manipulate your bones back into the joint (reduction). If there are no other complications involved with your dislocation, such as fractures or damage to blood vessels or nerves, this procedure can be done without surgery. Before this procedure, you will be given medicine so that you will not feel pain (anesthetic). Often specialized imaging exams are done after the reduction (magnetic resonance imaging [MRI] or computed tomography [CT]) to check for loose pieces of cartilage or bone in the joint.

If a manual reduction fails or you have nerve damage, damage to your blood vessels, or bone fractures, surgery will be necessary to perform the reduction.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

The following measures can help to reduce pain and speed up the healing process:

  • Rest your injured joint. Do not move your joint if it is painful. Also, avoid activities similar to the one that caused your injury.

  • Apply ice to your injured joint for 1 to 2 days after your reduction or as directed by your caregiver. Applying ice helps to reduce inflammation and pain.

  • Put ice in a plastic bag.

  • Place a towel between your skin and the bag.

  • Leave the ice on for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, every 2 hours while you are awake.

  • Use crutches or a walker as directed by your caregiver.

  • Exercise your hip and leg as directed by your caregiver.

  • Take over-the-counter or prescription medicine for pain as directed by your caregiver.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • Your pain becomes worse rather than better.

  • You feel like your hip has become dislocated again.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.