What are hip dislocations?

A hip dislocation occurs when the femur (thighbone) is forced out of the hip socket in the pelvis. This is a serious medical emergency that needs to be treated ASAP.

Most hip dislocations occur when the thighbone is pushed out of the socket backward, called a posterior dislocation. An anterior dislocation occurs when the thighbone is forced out of the socket in the forward direction.

Causes of hip dislocations

A hip dislocation is typically caused by major trauma, such as a car collision or fall from a substantial height. In hip dislocations caused by car crashes, the knee hits the dashboard and pushes the thigh backwards, driving the femur out of the hip socket.

Risk factors for a hip dislocation

  • Car collisions — patients who are in car collisions with direct impact are more likely to dislocate a hip.
  • Susceptibility to falls — patients who are susceptible to falls are at higher risk for a hip dislocation.

Symptoms of a hip dislocation

Hip dislocations are very painful. Patients are unable to move the leg and could potentially lose feeling in the foot or ankle due to nerve damage.

Diagnosis of a hip dislocation

A hip dislocation is a medical emergency and must be treated right away. Do not move someone with a hip dislocation. Call for medical help and keep the patient as comfortable as possible until they arrive.

Your doctor can typically diagnose a hip dislocation by looking at the position of the leg compared to the body and no other testing is necessary.

Your doctor may also order an x-ray, CT scan or a MRI to determine the full extent of the injury.

Treatments for hip dislocations

If you only have a hip dislocation without other injuries, the physician will manipulate the bones back into place while you are under sedation. The procedure is called a reduction.

Surgery is required in cases where there are loose tissues and fragmented bones in the affected area. In many cases, a hip dislocation will cause other complications such as nerve injury (crushed or stretched nerves that cause pain), osteonecrosis (bone death due to lack of blood supply to the bone) or arthritis (wearing down of cartilage in the hip).

Physical therapy and rehabilitation are often recommended to strength the muscles after this traumatic injury.

Recovery from a hip dislocation

Patients can recover from a hip dislocation after two to three months of healing. If there are other fractures, the recovery period could be longer. Patients will use crutches and other walking aids initially and then progress to walking on their own.

Find an orthopedic doctor nearby

Mercy Health locations that can treat you