What is the acetabular dysplasia?
Acetabular dysplasia is a shallow and abnormally directed hip socket (see Figure). The condition is most commonly associated with a subtle abnormality of the hip joint at birth (congenital hip dislocation) and often remains undetected for many years. Sometimes acetabular dysplasia can develop as the result of other childhood hip conditions such as infection, trauma or Perthes disease.
Figure: Severe acetabular dysplasia
What are the consequences of acetabular dysplasia?
Hip joints which are abnormally shallow are predisposed to progressive damage to the cartilage, leading to osteoarthritis. Acetabular dysplasia is one of the leading causes for the development of hip joint osteoarthritis, particularly in women.
I've never had a painful hip before, why now?
The hip does not become painful until enough damage has accumulated in the joint. The first symptoms are often mild groin discomfort. Once the joint becomes painful, gradual deterioration of the hip joint can reliably be predicted; however reducing your activity level may reduce the symptoms.
How long will my hip joint last?
This is sometimes a difficult question to answer. Once the hip becomes painful, acetabular dysplasia predictably causes progressive damage to the joint, but the progression can be very slow. Most patients experience ongoing discomfort which gradually worsens over many years, even decades. Patients with very shallow hip joint sockets who have developed symptoms around the age of 20 rarely get beyond their early thirties without requiring an artificial joint replacement.
Why not just wait until I develop severe arthritis, then get an artificial joint replacement?
This is certainly an option. Artificial joint replacements are a reliable and safe method of treating established osteoarthritis. Younger patients managed with artificial joint replacements however have a much higher likelihood over their lifespan of requiring increasingly complex re-operations to revise failed artificial joint replacements. In selected patients with acetabular dysplasia, early surgical intervention can slow or prevent the progression of joint damage and improve symptoms.
This information handout has been written by Dr Patrick Weinrauch for the purposes of patient education. The details provided are of general nature only and do not substitute for professional recommendations based an individual clinical assessment.