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Better training for Doctors is vital to avoid missed diagnosis of hip dysplasia in babies

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    The charity STEPS has their annual Baby Hip Health Week this week (11th – 17th March 2013) with the aim “to raise awareness amongst parents and health professionals of the vital need to check babies’ hips during the first weeks of life to prevent unnecessary pain and disability in later years”. As medical negligence Solicitors we tell you why we fully support this initiative.

    By Kerstin Kubiak

The specialist medical negligence Solicitors in the Clinical Negligence Team are frequently approached by parents whose children have been diagnosed with a hip condition, such as developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH), which was not diagnosed when their child was newborn or very young.  They now face the prospect that their child will require operations and may suffer a life-long disability, which would have been avoided if the condition had been diagnosed when their child was very young.

In the majority of these cases it quickly becomes apparent that there were risk factors or warning signs of child hip dysplasia when the child was a young baby which were not picked up and acted upon by the medical professionals treating them, such as:

  • A close family history of DDH or hip problems in childhood
  • A baby who was in the breech position
  • Unusual position or restricted movement of one of both of the legs
  • Unequal leg lengths
  • A limp or unusual gait when walking
  • Talipes

When these risk factors or warnings signs are picked up early enough then the child can often have simple treatment which will be effective in preventing ongoing problems and disability.

I recently acted for a young girl in a medical negligence claim against the hospital where she was born for failing to diagnose that she was suffering from DDH.  Shortly after she was born it was noted that there was a family history of hip problems and her mother also noticed that her right foot flopped inwards.  She was reassured by the medical staff that this was nothing to worry about and her baby was discharged home.  The hip condition was only then diagnosed 18 months later and she required surgery but unfortunately this was performed too late and the child was later diagnosed with avascular necrosis.  Had the condition been diagnosed when she was a newborn it was most likely she could have had simple treatment and would have had a functional hip throughout her life.

As a result of the missed diagnosis of hip dysplasia when she was a baby she will require several corrective operations during childhood and will then require hip replacement surgery in early adulthood followed by further revision surgery in later adulthood.  She will suffer from restricted mobility which will restrict her employment opportunities as an adult and she will require adapted accommodation, equipment and care in later adulthood.  She was awarded compensation as a result of the hospital negligence in failing to diagnose the condition when she was a newborn, which will provide her with financial security for her life.

It was clear in this case that the obvious risk factors and hip problem warning signs were not known to the Doctor treating her and so were not acted upon which had significant consequences for the child.  It is vital that all medical staff receive better training so that when these obvious signs present they can be acted upon as early as possible to avoid later problems.

It is important to seek the advice of a specialist medical negligence solicitor if you believe that your child has suffered as a result of a late diagnosis of a hip condition, to ensure that appropriate compensation is claimed to meet their present and future needs.

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