What is Hip Luxation?
The “hip joint” also known as the coxofemoral joint is comprised of two bones, a joint capsule and one ligament apart from all the surrounding musculature. The bones come together to make a “ball and socket” joint. Coxofemoral luxation is when these two bones become dislocated resulting in potential damage to the bones themselves, the joint capsule and often the ligament. The displacement will cause your pet great discomfort along with limitations in range of motion and difficulty with weight bearing on the respective limb. The dislocation is often caused by a traumatic injury and can be troubling as it has the potential to occur alongside damage other bones and organs such as the spine, lungs, heart, and abdominal organs.
What are the Signs that Your Animal has Hip Luxation?
Hip luxation can be incredibly painful for your animal as it impacts its leg and hip function. Animals may appear to have a rotated leg deviated from the direction of their dislocated hip. In about 90% of hip luxation cases, the highest part of the thighbone is shifted forward. This movement of the hip and thigh structures is generally observable.
In addition to asking for the owner’s observations of signs, a veterinarian will likely require the following tests toward a diagnosis:
- Full general examination
- Basic bloodwork to identify extent of damage and pre-existing medical problems
- X-rays of the hips to determine direction of dislocation and associated damage to other joints
- Accompanying chest and or spinal x-rays to assess ribs, lungs, heart, and spine.
- Depending on extent of trauma, an abdominal ultrasound or echocardiogram may be indicated to assess abdominal organs and heart
These diagnostics and assessments may be required to determine a diagnosis of hip luxation along with other coexisting injuries. Your veterinarian will discuss treatment options for the hip luxation alongside any additional treatments that may be indicated for other systemic issues.
The objective of treatment for hip luxation may be to replace the ball within the socket and allow for healing of associated soft tissue structure (joint capsule, ligament and surrounding muscles) to hopefully secure the dislocated hip in place. However if replacement of normal anatomic structures proves impossible or ill advised there are other options to help return patients to normal limb function. Veterinarians may suggest four treatment options:
- Non-surgical reduction of the hip: This treatment option is only available in patients with no underlying osteoarthritis of the hips. In this procedure, the hip is replaced under short anesthesia and supported with a sling. If the reduction of the hip is maintained for several weeks then the procedure is viewed as successful. This treatment option results in about a 50% success rate of retained hip reduction. These patients are at an increased risk of re-luxation in the future.
- Surgical reduction: In this surgery, the hip and supporting structures are replaced by surgically approaching the hip joint and manually reducing the ball into the socket. Again, this treatment option is only available in patients with no underlying osteoarthritis of the hips. Implants are usually placed during the surgery for extra support. There are a variety of very effective techniques that surgeons may choose from.
- Femoral head ostectomy: Sometimes surgeons are unable to replace the hip for a variety of reasons, i.e., concurrent fractures, osteoarthritis, chronicity of injury, etc. In these cases, surgeons can remove the femoral head, i.e., the ball in the “ball and socket”, to create a pseudo-joint. This technique is successful at relieving the discomfort associated with the abnormal articulation but may cause a slight loss in joint function.
- Total hip replacement: In this surgery, the hip is completely replaced with synthetic implants. Surgeons have the option to replace the femoral head and other parts of the hip joint depending on the animal’s need.
What to Expect After Treatment
Most complications from treatment are not life threatening. During the recovery phase, it is important to supervise your animal and follow specific guidelines made by your veterinarian to decrease the risk of any complications. Healing of the hip and its supporting structures can take several weeks. Animals should remain generally inactive for at least six to eight weeks for full recovery. Recommendations from your veterinarian will be customized for your animal depending on the type of repair option and extent of concurrent injuries sustained during initial trauma.
Prognosis after treatment is generally very successful depending on the severity of the injury and other associated damage. Most animals have excellent leg and hip function post-treatment. In the instances that the treatment failed to completely fix hip function, additional care may be required. A combination of aftercare, the severity of the injury, pre-existing medical problems, and patient compliance can play a role in treatment success. Compliance with guidelines set by your surgeon can increase the functional outcome of the treatment for your pet.
If you have concerns about your dog or cat, and you need to locate a board-certified surgeon, use the VetSpecialists.com search tool on the website’s homepage. The tool allows you to search for a veterinary specialist and then select the type of animal along with your location by zip code or city name. Contact the hospital of your choice to discuss your pet’s symptoms and to review whether there is a need for a referral from your primary care veterinarian.