Kristina Murphy didn’t realize that developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) runs in the family.
When she was less than a year old, Kristina was diagnosed with DDH and had to be immobilized for three months so her joints could be aligned.
Now in her 30s, she is still feeling the effects of the disorder, like chronic knee pain and osteoarthritis.
After her oldest daughter, Isla, was born in September 2008, Kristina did not give much thought to DDH. But when the doctor doing rounds noticed signs of hip dysplasia in Isla, Kristina took her daughter to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Tim Schrader, M.D., is the Medical Director of the Hip Program at Children’s and has treated DDH in many infants. After evaluating the newborn, he placed Isla into a Pavlik harness, which suspends the child’s hips into the proper position with straps that extend from the shoulders to the feet. It was a difficult adjustment for both Isla and her parents.
“She became very cranky when she was put into that harness,” Kristina said. “She really didn’t like it. She could only lie on her back. She would wake up every 30 minutes at night.”
Isla was in the harness for eight weeks, even though Kristina said it felt like much longer. Her parents were diligent about keeping her in the harness. She spent very limited time out of the harness and wore it until Dr. Schrader saw enough progress.
That dedication paid off. At 3 ½-years old, Isla is doing well and showing no signs of DDH.
When Kristina gave birth to her youngest daughter, Annaliese, in August 2011, she knew what to expect. She was born breech and showed immediate signs of DDH. Two days after Annaliese was born, Dr. Schrader evaluated her and quickly put the newborn in a Pavlik harness.
The experience with Annaliese in the harness was very different than it was with Isla.
“When she went into it, it was no big deal,” Kristina said. “She is a little bit more of a relaxed baby anyways. The main nuisance was not being able to dress her how we wanted to dress her. With a new baby, we had all these new baby clothes we wanted her to wear.”
Annaliese was in the harness for about eight weeks, like her sister. Also like Isla, Annaliese is doing well and is showing no signs of DDH. Both will be checked regularly for DDH until they are done growing.
Kristina thought that Dr. Schrader’s early identification and treatment of DDH was the key to her daughters recovering quickly and not facing some of the difficulties she is facing later in life.
Dr. Schrader recommends frequent routine hip exams by medical professionals until the infants are walking, knowing the risk factors of DDH and early screening with ultrasounds in high-risk groups.
“I really trust him,” she said. “He did such a great job with my daughters.”