How can we help you?

Raleigh Orthopaedic Welcomes Dr. Nicole Quinlan and Dr. Justin Ray | learn more

Hip Dislocation

Dislocated Hip: Symptoms, Treatment, and Recovery

A hip dislocation is an event that requires extreme force or another severe circumstance. Hip dislocations occur when the top or head of the femur comes out of the socket formed by the pelvis. Dislocation is caused by a congenital condition or can result from a traumatic event, usually a car accident or a fall from a substantial height. Hip dislocation is a medical emergency, and immediate treatment is imperative to prevent any other damage.

Causes of Hip Dislocation

Hip dislocations are classified into congenital and acquired. Congenital hip dislocation, also commonly known as hip dysplasia, happens when a child is born with an unstable hip.  It’s caused by abnormal formation of the hip during the early stages of fetal development. 

Acquired dislocations occur from the force of high-energy trauma. Usually, this is due to a traumatic event like a car accident and falling from a significant height. These are what are considered native type acquired dislocations.

You may also experience a hip dislocation after total hip replacement, the other type of dislocation that is seen in the medical field. This dislocation will mainly occur within the first three months after replacement surgery. Both acquired and after replacement dislocations will require medical treatment from a hip specialist.

What Does a Dislocated Hip Look Like?

A dislocated hip is a severe injury. It can occur either posteriorly, towards the back of the body, or anteriorly, towards the front. Most dislocations are posterior and leave the leg immobilized with the foot and knee facing inward. Anterior dislocations cause the foot and knee to face outward.

In addition, the leg with the dislocation appears shorter than the other leg, and some very easily identifiable misalignment may be visible. Finally, there can be visible swelling and some bruising at the site, which points to dislocation as the cause. See a medical provider as soon as possible to prevent any further damage.

Symptoms of a Dislocated Hip

The symptoms of hip dislocation are hard to ignore and should indicate the need for immediate medical intervention. Symptoms are known to be:

  • Acute, severe pain in the hip
  • Muscle spasms
  • Inability to move affected leg
  • Loss of feeling in foot or ankle (occurs when there is possible nerve damage)
  • Rotation of leg inward or outward
  • Swelling or discoloration at the site of the injury

How is a Dislocated Hip Diagnosed?

Usually, a physician can visually inspect a patient and be reasonably confident that there is a hip dislocation when presented for an exam. However, the doctor will still perform a physical examination to check the patient and ensure that no other injuries are affecting the hip. In addition, imaging will likely be ordered and consists of an X-ray, a CT scan, or both to confirm the diagnosis and better understand the individual’s injury.

Treatment for Hip Dislocation

Hip dislocation is treated by the replacement of the femur head back into the socket of the pelvis. The individual may need surgery to correct the problem if imaging reveals bone fragments or torn tissues that may obstruct the joint from being placed in the normal position.

Reduction Procedures

Reduction is the term used for manually manipulating the femur head back into the socket on the pelvis. Reduction is the option when no other hip injuries are present and there is no joint obstruction. The orthopedist may provide a patient with an anesthetic or sedative to make the procedure easier and relax the patient.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Nonsurgical treatment is the option that will typically follow the reduction procedure. When proper reduction of the hip dislocation is achieved, the next step is imaging to ensure an appropriate position of bones, and then physical therapy may be prescribed. You will learn flexion and extension exercises and how to position your leg to encourage healing.


Orthopedists consider surgery as the last resort when it comes to hip dislocation. However, surgery is most likely to be necessary when there are other injuries or if there is hip instability. It restores cartilage to surfaces and can, in some instances, require transfusion.

Recovery Time

Recovery, especially if surgery is needed, can take two to three months and may seem slow going at first. Limits on hip movement may be placed by the doctor as this will promote better healing and prevent further damage to the area. Physical therapy is a must, and patients will need some support, like crutches, a walker, or a cane, for a fair amount of time following surgery. Normal activities can resume when your orthopedist gives the all-clear, anywhere from 6-10 weeks later.                                                                                   

Leading Hip Care at Raleigh Orthopaedic

Look no further than Raleigh Orthopaedic when you need comprehensive orthopedic care. Our hip specialists diagnose and treat a wide range of minor and complex hip injuries, including hip dislocation. Contact us today to schedule an appointment at one of our six convenient locations in Wake County, NC. 

Book Online