Treating DDH

Pavlik harness

Babies diagnosed with DDH early in life are usually treated with a fabric splint known as a Pavlik harness. This secures both of your baby's hips in a stable position and allows them to develop normally.

The harness needs to be worn constantly for several weeks and shouldn't be removed by anyone except a health professional. The harness may be adjusted during follow-up appointments and your clinician will discuss your baby's progress with you.

Your hospital will provide detailed instructions on how to look after your baby while they're in a Pavlik harness. This will include information on:

  • how to change your baby's clothes without removing the harness (nappies can be worn normally)
  • cleaning the harness if it's soiled it still shouldn't be removed, but may be cleaned with detergent and an old toothbrush or nail brush
  • positioning your baby while they sleep they should be placed on their back and not on their side
  • how to help avoid skin irritation around the straps of the harness you may be advised to wrap some soft, hygienic material around the bands

Eventually, you maybe given advice on removing and replacing the harness for short periods of time until it can be permanently removed. You'll be encouraged to allow your baby to move freely when the harness is off and swimming is often recommended.


Surgery may be needed if your baby is diagnosed with DDH after they're six months old, or if the Pavlik harness hasn't worked. The most common surgical technique is known as reduction, which involves placing the ball of the femur back into the hip socket.

Reduction is carried out undergeneral anaesthetic and may be performed as either:

  • closed reduction the ball is placed in the socket without making any large cuts (incisions)
  • open reduction an incision is made in the groin to allow the surgeon to place the ball in the socket

Your child will need a hip cast for at least six weeks after surgery. Their hip will need to be checked under general anaesthetic again after this time to make sure it's stable and healing well. After this investigation, a cast will probably be needed for at least another six weeks to allow the hip to fully stabilise.

Some children may also require bone surgery (osteotomy) during an open reduction, or at a later date to correct any bone deformities.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 21 Dec 2018