Baby hip dislocation check to be axed

A hip screening test carried out on babies at around eight months is due to be phased out.

The test involves guaging flexibility of the thigh by gently pressing the knees out and down while the baby is lying down. Originally brought in back in 1969 as part of national hip-screening programme. The argument given by Dr Muir Gray, programme director of the UK National Screening Committee, is that the test is superfluous and that ‘ the more tests you do, the more false positives you get.’


However, the move is likely to be unpopular with parents who constantly seek reassurance that their child is health and developing normally. Parents of children in whom abnormalities were found and since corrected are very upset at the news the hip screening test will be dropped.


Dee and David Simpson’s daughter Amelia was found to have congenital dysplasia of the hip – or hip dislocation - at her eight month check when a health visitor discovered that one of her legs was 2cm shorter then the other. Luckily Amelia was able to receive prompt medical attention and, following an operation, is fully recovered at 18 months.


Later diagnosis can be a lot hard to do, and a lot harder to treat. At six months old, children have an 80% chance of being successfully treated. But, by twelve months, this statistic drops dramatically to 50%. By eighteen months of age, toddlers require a four-hour operation.


Comments Michael Benson, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Oxford, ‘As a child gets older and starts walking, the success rate of treatment drops. The shape of the ball and socket deforms to become oval rather than round. It is more difficult to make a perfect fit and the hip will slide a little bit out of place. In the long term, the child is more likely to suffer from premature arthritis.’


Certain sectors of the medical fraternity are recommending that newborn babies should be screened using ultrasound instead, as is the case in Austria and Germany.


 Sue Banton of STEPS, a charity for children with leg abnormalities, is inclined to support the phasing out of hip screening, saying, ‘I am aware of strong parental concerns about dropping the test but it can also give false reassurance, which means it is harder for parents’ later concerns to be taken seriously.’ 

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