Hip Dislocation Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options

Your hips consist of a ball and socket joint that mainly provides stability and function to the body. It has a cup-like structure called the acetabulum, which stabilizes the femur (thighbone) together with a network of surrounding muscles and ligaments. 

This structure helps the hip joints bear the weight of your entire upper body while facilitating flexibility and mobility. So you can imagine why trauma and injuries in the pelvic area, like a dislocation, are deemed an emergency, requiring immediate medical assistance.


Read on below to know more about hip dislocation, its symptoms, leading causes, and what to do during such situations. 

What is hip dislocation?

A hip dislocation happens when the femur’s head gets pushed out of the pelvis (acetabulum) socket. As a result of this abnormal displacement, pelvic tissues and bones may also attain some damages, such as fractures and tears in the soft tissues. Additionally, nearby muscles, nerves, and blood vessels may also get impaired depending on the cause and severity of the injury.

A dislocated hip can occur due to several reasons, namely:

Additionally, dislocation may also happen in the first few months after a hip replacement surgery.

What are the types of hip dislocation?

Hip dislocation injuries may be classified as simple if there are no associated fractures and complex if it involves bone fractures in the acetabulum or femur. 

Another classification of hip joint displacements depends on the direction of the dislocated thigh bone or femur head. It can either be anterior or posterior dislocation.

Posterior Dislocation

This type of misplacement happens when the femur or thigh bone slips out of the pelvic bone backward or posteriorly. This occurs in 90% of reported hip dislocations and usually involves sciatic nerve injuries and thigh bone fractures.

Anterior Dislocation

On the other hand, anterior dislocations in the pelvic area involve the femur’s head getting pushed out of the socket in a forward direction. This type of displacement rarely happens since the anterior ligaments (iliofemoral) are much stronger than the posterior ones. 

What are the symptoms of hip dislocation?

As soon as your hips get dislocated, you will immediately feel a severe kind of pain in the pelvic area. Sometimes, this pain may even radiate onto the knees as some muscles in the thigh directly connect to it. Some of the other symptoms usually felt by patients during a dislocated hip include:

  • Inability to move or bear weight onto the affected leg.
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Swelling
  • Deformity in the leg (e.g., protruding femur head)
  • Numbness and weakness if the sciatic nerve is damaged.

What to do if you have a dislocated hip?

Hip dislocations should be treated as an emergency situation. So during such times, you should not move the injured pelvic area and call for medical assistance at once. An orthopedic specialist will then conduct a physical examination of the affected area. Usually, they can already confirm a case of hip dislocation just by looking at it.

However, they may also order specific imaging tests to see if there are other injuries involved or to see the direction of the displacement. Some examples of diagnostic tests include:

  • X-ray scanning
  • CT scan
  • MRI or magnetic resonance imaging - used only if there are damages in the labrum and surrounding cartilages.

How to treat hip dislocation?

Doctors should treat dislocated hips immediately to avoid further damage to the surrounding nerves or blood vessels. Physicians follow two approaches in fixing hip dislocation:

Nonsurgical Treatment

Most hip displacements can be fixed using nonsurgical techniques, like doing a closed reduction procedure.  

In this method, an orthopedic doctor will put your hips back in place by manipulating the displaced bones. Your doctor may either administer anesthesia or sedative before doing the procedure.

After that, your physician may also request an X-ray or CT scan to confirm proper alignment or see any other injuries.

Surgical Treatment

Surgical methods may only be considered if there’s a failed initial reduction or presence of fractures or loose tissues and bone fragments. Some surgical techniques commonly used involve:

  • Hip arthroscopy - a minimally invasive procedure that uses only a tiny incision to repair fractures or remove damaged tissues.
  • Open Reduction - an open surgical procedure used for complex hip dislocations.
  • Total Hip Replacement - this procedure involves removing the damaged bones and replacing them with prosthetic ones. This is only used for severe hip dislocations that reduction and other surgical procedures cannot correct.

Congenital hip displacements may be corrected using a hip brace or harness. But if not, then doctors may opt to resort to surgical means.

Get the proper treatment and care you need from the best surgeons at our Orthopedic Surgery Center Panther Creek

Our surgery center is a partnership between Raleigh Orthopaedic clinic, UNC Rex, and Panther Creek UNC health. Our mission is to be North Carolina's premier orthopedic destination by providing exceptional care that is personalized and cost-effective. 

You can trust our board-certified fellowship-trained surgeons to create an appropriate treatment plan to address your hip condition, including hip dislocation. We strive to help you recover with minimal pain to regain maximum mobility. 

Get back to your daily life pain-free! For additional information, contact our surgery center at 919-582-3050. We look forward to being your partner in care. 

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.

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6715 McCrimmon Parkway
Suite 205 A 
Cary, NC 27519
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