Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) is a term used to describe a group of disorders of the neonatal hip in which the head of the femur is unstable or incongruous in relation to the acetabulum. Early detection and treatment of the condition generally results in normal development, whereas late diagnosis has poor success. In Northern Ireland, despite all neonates being manually examined for hip disorders by a medical officer before hospital discharge, there is an unacceptable late diagnostic rate of almost 50% of all cases. To help reduce the number of late presentations, vibration arthrometry, a noninvasive form of screening for DDH, has been used to record hip vibration events during clinical testing. In a comparative study, 300 infants were examined by nurses and medical officers to establish the sensitivity of manual palpation to neonatal hip vibrations detected by the objective detection system. Experienced research nurses detected 86% of the signals; doctors in training detected less than 10%. This suggests that objective, noninvasive screening by vibration arthrometry would detect a higher proportion of vibration events in neonates during the early stages of DDH. More time should be invested in training medical officers and others involved in DDH screening.
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