Born to run: How hip dysplasia surgery got this patient moving

By Vivian McNeeley


When I gave birth to my daughter, Angela, in the summer of 2005, she was a perfect, healthy, happy baby and we were thrilled to welcome our first daughter into our family.

As Angela grew she amazed us in every way. She was outgoing, smart, funny and not at all shy. She had a way about her that was all her own. I was a little concerned that she seemed to be a tad clumsy and unsteady at times, but figured that was just another part of the person she was becoming. When I asked her pediatricians about it they said not to worry, but as time went on there was no denying that her funny little swagger had turned into a noticeable limp.

After being referred to an orthopedic doctor at Boston Children’s Hospital, Angela was diagnosed with developmental dysplasia of the hip, which means she had a problem with formation of her hip joint. She was 5 years old at the time.

By most standards, 5 is still very young, but when it comes to catching and correcting hip dysplasia, it’s considered quite late. If identified between infancy and the baby’s first birthday, doctors can usually treat it with special harnesses or casts, but for a child Angela’s age, treatment is much more difficult and often involves multiple surgeries.

All of a sudden, we were in a whirlwind. Our daughter had a condition that we knew nothing about, and she needed immediate care. I started researching hip dysplasia in children as soon as I could. I wanted to take her to the doctors who were most familiar with the condition, especially in older children who have had a late diagnosis. I wouldn’t have to go far—all my research brought me right back to Boston Children’s.

Angela’s journey to repair her hips began immediately. MRIs various tests, and consultations followed. A team of hip specialists discussed Angela’s case at depth, and a treatment plan was formed.

Throughout the entire process, communication with the doctors was seamless. They taught us about hip dysplasia and answered every question we had. They were patient with us and allowed us all the time we needed to take everything in and fully understand what was happening to our daughter. They also spoke directly to Angela, making her part of the process. She was immediately very comfortable with her doctors and wasn’t as scared about what was happening.

Angela had her first surgery earlier this year in March. After 10 hours of surgery we finally got to see our little girl. She was lying in recovery in a hip spica cast and, nestled next to her, among all the tubes, was her stuffed bear who had also been fitted with a tiny spica cast. After surgery, the doctors had cast her bear in order to make her feel like she wasn’t alone.  This small gesture, by a team of weary doctors after a long, complicated surgery, made us realize we were in a very special place.

Angela post surgery

Angela will need future surgeries and will remain in the care of Boston Children’s Hospital into her adulthood. But she is doing wonderfully and, for the first time in her life, she can run without limping. It’s a new run for her, one without the funny little limp we thought was just part of who she was.

Watch this video learn more about how Boston Children’s treats developmental dysplasia of the hip.